With the exception of EVENT HORIZON – and maybe RESIDENT EVIL – director Paul W.S. Anderson has quickly become labeled by horror fans as one of the worst A-list directors in Hollywood. Quickly jumping in the trend of remakes, Anderson has popped out his version of the classic 1975 film, DEATH RACE 2000, entitled simply DEATH RACE. While remaking a film over 30 years old with new technologies seems like not only an obvious and inherently good idea, but it also seemed like a no-brainer. Any chump should have been able to deliver an action-packed, power punch of adrenaline… but we’re not talking about anyone, we’re talking about Paul W.S. Anderson.
In the remake, ex-con Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is forced by the warden of a notorious prison (Joan Allen) to compete in our post-industrial world’s most popular sport: a car race in which inmates must brutalize and kill one another on the road to victory. Jensen is taking over for the deceased Frankenstein, the most popular of all racing personalities, by wearing the mask and parading around as the crowd fav. The deal, win the final game and be free… or so he thinks.
The main problem with the film is immediately obvious as instead of saving the Frankenstein twist for the finale (like in the original), we learn almost immediately that Jason Statham is in fact the NEW Frankenstein. All of the mystery is removed instantaneously from the remake and it becomes a lowbrow action movie with little to no thought involved. It’s even worse when Hennessey (Allen) continually boast about her viewers and numbers, which make it unclear “why” she cares so much about Frankenstein continuing on. It’s also frustrating that there’s no reference to the US government on how or why this even is taking place (on National television none-the-less).
It’s obvious that DEATH RACE isn’t supposed to be a “thinker” or a “slow burn”, so in all honesty all the film needed was a few awesome action scenes and some boobs (like a true Corman film), then it would be at least redeemable. But Anderson even fails to deliver the promise of an over-the-top action film as he loses every moment in his f*cking goddamn annoying camerawork and hyper editing. It’s nearly impossible to see what the heck is going on during the race sequences and it’s incredibly frustrating. The camera zooms in and out, and then slams left and right, shacking uncontrollably. Watching DEATH RACE is like being on the Tea Cups ride at Disney; you think you’re having fun, but after vomiting all over the place you realize that you have just been cheated out of a bunch of time, and now the rest of the day you’re going to be nauseous – and maybe the nausea is caused by knowing you just dropped $12 on this heap of moving images.
Even though DEATH RACE is pretty bloody, and had some cool moments, the overall experience is mind numbing and a little depressing. It’s sad to think that this is Anderson’s best effort since 2002, and that it’s still as bad as ever. It’s recommended that you completely avoid this race and take a trip back to 1975 and revisit a well-crafted classic like DEATH RACE 2000. If you’re looking for that thoughtless, quick-cut, energy jolt of a film, you’ll get what you’re looking for in FAST AND THE FURIOUS, or one of it’s sequels (all three are better).