That is the question.Can this Aug/08 release/remake of Death Race equal or surpass the 70s original? My findings confirm that this new version indeed equals or surpasses the original film.From the acting,the stunts and special effects,they all add up to a nicely updated and badder version of Corman's original.And who should be on hand to pilot this version?;none other than Corman himself.It is chock full of some great actors backing up star Jason Statham,such as British veteran Ian McShane,Joan Allen,Tyrese Gibson and even David Carradine,who drops by to play the original Frankenstein under that frightful mask.However there is something I think quite important to tell you that the case of this DVD does NOT;at least I could not see it.When you are at the main menu on the DVD there is an asterisk beside the unrated version saying this version MIGHT affect the playability of the movie. What the....? I do not understand why it would or should.Thankfully my player had no perceptible problems at all,but I thought you should be pre-warned as to what possibly to expect,as Universal seems unwilling to be honest enough to be upfront about it on the case.I deducted an entire star for this faux paux/deception.
The plot finds Statham,a hard working steel worker being laid off from his job.He goes home to his wife and while he is upstairs tending to his unsettled baby,a break in occurs in the kitchen.When Statham returns his wife is dead on the floor and he and the intruder have a scuffle.Statham is knocked down and out,but just before he fades out the killer makes a motion with his hand in the form of a shooting pistol.The killer has planted the knife in Stathams hand,so when the police arrive,it is Statham of course who is deemed to be the killer.
Fast forward and Statham is being taken to and incarcerated in the penal facility on Terminal island.No one escapes from this facility and for entertainment the warden,Joan Allen,has set up a Death race,in which prisoners who drive in it,after five consecutive wins,can get paroled out.The warden propositions Statham to take the place of a popular driver called Frankenstein,who died in the last race;one win away from getting his freedom.
Statham agrees but something is not right.Statham was a former race driver in civilian life,so is it coincidence that he is there?During the first race,Statham sees a hand gesture from of the other drivers,the same one from the killer of his wife.On top of this some of his equipment has been mysteriously malfunctioning.It seems the warden has used one her own prisoners to knock off Stathams wife,in order to continue on with Frankenstein.Also Statham will apparently never get out of the prison,if the warden has anything to do with it.
The deadly races,viewed by millions on the internet,continues full blown as the drivers slowly dwindle down the playing field,through horrific crashes/deaths.Statham and his arch rival Tyrese Gibson,go head to head, but the two have agreed to work together,first to eliminate a souped up tanker truck called the Dreadnought,and then to escape off the island.
Gibson's truck is loaded with missiles and nicely blows a hole in the side of the track big enough for the two of them to leave the facility.Both ditch their rides and escape on foot,while the warden gets a small thank you package,in which is an explosive.
The next we see of Statham and Gibson they are working as mechanics down in Mexico and enjoying their new found freedom and life.
I certainly prefer the extended version,with an extra 6 minutes of footage added,as it fleshes out the characters and the plot a little bit more.But in the end,as always,it's up to you to decide for yourself.The race itself takes up most of the film,and the stunt works/car crashes and technical effects used to create it all are nothing short of spectacular.Statham is right on his game in this one,with his usual intensity and menace.
Technically speaking we have the theatrical and unrated versions on one single disc(one sided),and both are clear and crisp and in their w/s a/r's of 2:35:1.Extras includes some featurettes on the films making and the stunt work,and commentary by its director.
All in all a nice film with some awesome stunt work and rad racing.The race will have you on the edge of your seat,guaranteed.One star deducted for Universal's unforgivable lapse in pre-warning the consumer about possible playability issues with the unrated version.3 1/2 stars.