When someone mentions Troma, people generally either roll their eyes or have an eager smile spread across their face. It’s definitely an acquired taste, to be sure. Myself, I’m not big on Troma films, or those films that try to ape being Troma films. With Race War: The Remake, writer/director/producer Tom Martino has concocted a film based on an Alamo Drafthouse grindhouse trailer that might very well be mistaken for a Troma film, but it’s not. Did that change my initial impression of the film? No, but being that it wouldn’t be right to write a film off from the get-go, I persevered.
Baking Soda and his partner G.E.D. (Jamelle Kent) are crack dealers. Rival white dealers are trying to take over their territory with their own brand of otherworldly space crack. What are Baking Soda and G.E.D. to do but to arm up and with help from their friend Da Black Kreecha fight their way back to the top.
One thing you’ll almost immediately realize (that is, if one of our protagonists dancing in a forest behind the opening credits isn’t a clue) is that those involved didn’t take this seriously. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. A low budget affair like this isn’t going to be Citizen Kane, and as such everyone appears to have a blast just being goofy, which in turn comes across to the viewer as, well, being fun. Granted, not all C-level films have to be goofy, but when you have a story like this, you know what you’re getting.
In addition to the goofiness, there’s also a helping of over-the-top offensive stereotyping in the form of, well, almost anything you can think of. I know that some people will find this funny, and if you do, you’re in luck: the film is filled to the brim with it. For example, the local bar is run by an Arabic puppet that’s essentially a Lamb Chop puppet dyed brown with some other cosmetic alterations. Whenever the puppet talks, Arabic subtitles pop up on screen. I don’t know what the subtitles say, but it’s clear what’s going on. Then there’s Kreech da Black Kreecha from da Lagoon, a jive talking, half-black, half-movie monster character. His dad was blaxploitation hero Rudy Ray Williamson, while his mom is an alien who starred in an “old movie about a black lagoon”. Did I also mention that Rudy Ray’s head make appearances throughout the film, as well? Yeah. Throw in some over-the-top gore and various other bodily fluids, you get a pretty good idea of this movie’s target audience.
Obviously, I’m not part of that select group. Predictably, the script is painful, with the N word used by practically every character, regardless of race. The acting isn’t much better. As for the humour, it’s kept in the juvenile department for much of the film, and unless you don’t mind poop humour, you won’t find much of it very funny. It’d be a different story if the humour was clever, but you can’t get much out of jokes about things like balls. I know that this is some sort of weird send-up to blaxploitation films with a helping of gore and splatter thrown in, but it’s all lost amongst the offensiveness of everything else. To top things off, the film drags on for a little too long. It was a chore to sit through because of the obvious, but at 95 minutes, it could’ve stood to lose fifteen or so.
You’re probably wondering if I’m going to slam this film. Well, not really. Don’t get me wrong, Race War: The Remake is not a good film. But the fact that the people involved in this film had a genuinely good time working on it, and knew the kind of film that they were making wasn’t going to be the next great indie blockbuster(as opposed to being pretentious about it) makes you appreciate it on that level. With that said, it’s definitely not a good film. The mixture of gratuitous cheap gore with offensive humour, bad acting and a bad script will limit it to a very select market. It’s not my market (much like the majority of any film that tries to be or is a Troma film), but that won’t stop some of you from seeing this film. You may like it, but the rest of us will end up passing on it in favour of something that’s a little less blatantly offensive.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the picture is predictably not that great. Lighting issues aside, the transfer doesn’t boast great detail or contrast, and the post-production filters make everything look like a jagged, noise-heavy grindhouse mess. I can see that this was the intention in order to attempt to replicate a lower-than-low look, so on that level, they succeeded. Those looking to see stellar production values had best look elsewhere.
Audio-wise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track isn’t much better. While dialogue is for the most part clean and free of any distortion, you’re not going to be getting much in the way of panning or ambient effects. It’s a budget audio for a budget film.
First up is a commentary with director Tom Martino, who is joined by actors Howard Calvert, Jamelle Kent, Matt Rogers and a couple of others who I couldn’t make out. Seriously, when I say that I couldn’t make out who it was, I mean it. This is probably one of the worst recordings for an audio commentary that I’ve ever heard. I had to crank my volume up all the way in order to hear everyone, and even then I couldn’t hear half of what was said. I don’t know if they had a crappy mic setup or what, but this was hard to listen to. The group talk about various aspects of the production, but it’s so disorganized that it’s really just like having a group of friends getting drunk and saying whatever they want.
Following that is a Gag Reel, which amounts to guys corpsing, running into the sets, botched effects, practical jokes involving nudity and so on.
The Gore Reel & Behind The Scenes is self explanatory, with guys goofing off with effects or showing multiple takes of effects. All I know is that it must suck to have that much sticky fake blood on you at one time.
Rounding things off are trailers for other films, including an appearance by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman in Cheeseballs.
Also included in the case is a mini poster for Race War‘s original blaxploitation onesheet.
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