Sunday, August 24, 2008

Film Journal: Death Race

(Note: The following is a new experiment I am working on wherein I post a quick film journal entry for all of the films I watch in theaters and on video)

Where:Regal Greensboro Grande Stadium 16
When:1:15p.m. on Saturday, August 23, 2008

No doubt, Death Race is probably the best film Paul W.S. Anderson has made since Event Horizon. That's said, it's still a fairly bad movie. Based off the schlock-y Roger Corman classic, Death Race 2000, Anderson's movie is not so much a remake of that film as it is an adaptation of the video games "Twisted Metal" and, in an odd way, "Super Mario Kart."

Jason Statham plays Jensen Ames, a guy who was named after a car, which is to say in a Paul W.S. Anderson screenplay that he is a good driver. He gets framed for killing his wife, incarcerated in a prison facility named Terminal Island (?!), and manipulated into competing in a automobile bloodsport that's televised on the internet in exchange for his freedom. Basically, the prisoners race around a track circling the prison facility with armor-plated cars that have dual mounted machine guns, napalm, smoke launchers, and, sometimes, RPG missile launchers. Why don't these prisoners, many of whom are deadly murderers, simply use these mobile tanks to shoot up the guards and escape off the island? The film goes to great lengths to offer up a bunch of explanations and excuses, none of which help the logic of the film and do nothing more than bore the crap out of me.

The reason I say the film is like "Super Mario Kart" is because of one of the movie's more silly ideas. Located around the track are a series of illuminated manhole covers. The ones with shields on them equip the cars to spay napalm and smoke; the ones with swords on them enable the machine guns, but if a car drives over a shield with a skull on it, spikes pop out of the ground. These icons are first come first serve, and so completely ridiculous that it's obvious Anderson simply needed a way for the characters to be either armed or helpless whenever it served the purpose of his script.

And since I am talking about the movie's script, Al Gore should probably give Anderson an award. I say this because the entire screenplay Anderson wrote for Death Race is recycled from other movies. While the movie has very little to do with the original Corman production, it does ape lines, sequences, and scenarios from other movies pretty much throughout. The movie's plot is basically The Shawshank Redemption with a violent auto racing core.

That's a minus for me.

Price of admission includes:

-Several inexcusably homophobic lines directed at Tyrese Gibson's character, who may or may not have been gay. The movie never says one way or the other, and maybe Gibson fought hard to keep his character 'allegedly gay' as opposed to 'obviously gay' or even 'actually gay'. But still.

-A ridiculously jarring 'fly girls' sequence wherein they bus in a group hot babe convicts from a women's prison to be the navigators for the contestants. For some reason, Anderson thought it would be a great idea to play booty music in the background, while these women bounced and jiggled in slow-motion to their vehicles. This shift from 'crap movie' to MTV music video was rather abrupt.


-If you were unlucky as I was, the horrible and overplayed trailer for Quarantine, which is supposed to be the newest in 'found horror' a la Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. The only problem with this is that in the two minutes we've seen of Quarantine, the set-up already looks hokey and the acting looks devoid of any attempt at realism.

See for yourself:

Now compare that to this:

If all other actresses were Jennifer Carpenter (Quarantine), then Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project) would have so won an Oscar by now.


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