Mr. Movie

Statham brutally good in 'Death Race'

Blood. Gore. Gruesome death.

Unlimited machine gun and cannon fire.

Bombs exploding, and exploding, and then exploding some more.

Tires screeching, brakes squealing glass breaking, and crash, after crash, after meaningless crash.

The bad guys die in their order of importance to the script, and no matter how dire the situation, the hero steps away unscathed.

Death Race is total exploitation and mind-numbing, pointless violence.

What’s not to like?

In 2008, we love reality TV and shell out millions each year to catch flicks full of gratuitous violence. Death Race is set a scant four years from now in 2012 when the U.S. economy has collapsed. Society has evolved to embrace real death and real maiming as its main source of entertainment.

Jason Statham is an innocent man jailed for murdering his wife. He has little to do but grimace once in awhile and feign concentration while pretending to drive a souped-up, armored car through rapid-fire edits of machine gun fire, cannon fire and bursts of napalm.

He is the envy of macho males everywhere. Statham’s whole shtick is to glare, grunt, look buff — which he absolutely is — and kick butt. No tough lines to deliver. It’s an easy, high-paying gig.

Not so easy is Joan Allen’s villainous prison warden. She’s the reason Statham character is there. Her focus is TV ratings and financial fallout, and he’s the guy that can get them. Allen has never looked so ill at ease in a role. She is a world-class actress no doubt in Death Race for the paycheck.

The flaw of Death Race is writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson’s (Resident Evil) insistence in going for the jugular. This redo is loosely based on producer Roger Corman’s 1975 classic Death Race 2000 and could have used a rewrite and some humor. Allen is a natural comedian with wonderful timing, and the stoic Statham is a perfect straight man.

If this is your thing, Death Race is quite entertaining.

And I will forever be grateful that Anderson and the producers let me know in a disclaimer that trained professionals did the stunts in the film and that I should never try any of speeding, controlled crashes, or gratuitous gun play on my own.

Party poopers.

Rated R for violence, gore, language and mature themes. It opens Friday at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself

  Comments