Updating the 1975 Roger Corman cult film Death Race 2000 and building on the premonitions of Network and The Running Man, the new Death Race places the viewer in a strange predicament between unwanted involvement and blood thirsty consumerism. On the one hand, assuming you are actually in the multiplex, everyone becomes inherently involved in the morally and politically corrupt “watch until they drop” mentality that most self-conscious liberals (including, from the looks of other reviews, most professional film critics) distance themselves from. On the other hand, Death Race constructs itself not only as a film, but, oftentimes, as the actual online event where hits, and our pulses, go up as prisoners continue to die in increasingly violent ways. Problematic? Maybe. But you’ve got to wonder at some point, in the midst of this 90 minute action sequence, who the hell cares?
Jensen Ames, an ex-con framed for the murder of his wife, is sent to Terminal Island where the most popular sport on the planet takes place: a car race where inmates kill one another for victory, promised freedom if they can win four races. Ames, a former driver, begins piecing together the mystery when he is offered the chance to drive as the masked Frankenstein, who won three races prior to his death at the hands of Machine Gun Joe. The public doesn't know that Frankenstein is dead, and he keeps the pay-per-view ratings soaring for the evil people behind the prison. Death Race puts its chips all-in, lights the chips on fire, and taunts the audience to do the same. In a film with hysterically egregious PBR product placement, constant machine gun fire out of hummers, semis, and Mustangs equipped with flamethrowers, napalm, and rocket launchers, all there to increase the varying possibilities of destruction, not to mention that Joan Allen (!) is the evil henchwomen behind it all, its not so hard to do. The shit doesn’t just hit the fan in Death Race...it bitch slaps it.
by James Hansen