Death Race 2 Reviews
Now don't get me wrong its not a poor film, its actually a decent 'Running Man' style flick with good destruction derby sequences and plenty of pointless over the top blood BUT its the same as the first. Nothing new here anywhere I'm afraid right down to bringing back another 'Frankenstein' and using all the same types of cars.
Cast attracted me with Rhames, Goss, Trejo and Bean (great line up) plus there are some nice girls in here too ;) but the film kinda rollercoasters and has good bits and poor bits and then bits which are directly copied from the first. Never did like the computer game angle it uses with the race either, comes across as a 'WWF' show, apart from that if you can accept its basically the first all over again then enjoy.
Storywise it's largely a rehash of the first film, with only the last 10 minutes trying to suddenly create a bridge between the films. But let's be honest. No one is watching "Death Race 2" for the story. Is there death? Check. Is there racing? Check. The audience for this movie knows what they're getting, and for the most part they'll enjoy it.
Though it was sad not to see Statham in the film, Luke Goss did an excellent job of picking up the reins of protagonist. So far I can honestly say I've loved everything I've seen that Goss has done to date (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Blade 2, Tekken, Fringe and The Dead Undead). Also Sean Bean (of Boromir from The Lord of the Rigs fame) and Danny Trejo (From Dusk till Dawn, The Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie's Halloween, Predators and Machete) are both always money well spent in my books.
I was doubtful that Death Race warranted any furthering in its franchise, given that it was a quasi sequel to Death Race 2000 to begin with. Honestly though, after having seen Deathrace 2, which was made for only a tenth of the cost of Death Race, I'm quite glad they did. It may be just another action movie, but it's got great re-watch value, which is what I most admire in a film.
That's not to say it's not without fault. I had to watch the film through twice before I really understood half of the characters motives. Ving Rhames is a terrible actor, how he keeps getting work is beyond me. Though thankfully his role as Mr. Weyland (hopefully this was a deliberate throw back to Alien, and they don't honestly expect us to believe they come up with it themselves) who owns (but doesn't run) the Terminal Island Prison, is a minor one. Goss's love interest wasn't quite as annoying, but the navigator really didn't do it for me. She was even worse then the navigator from Death Race, which is bad.
The actual "Death Race" part of Death Race didn't come up until half way through the film, which I'm sure caused plenty of people a lot of grief, but seriously, this is what I like to see from an origin story, the origin. World is bad, prisons get full, corporations buy prisons, prisons make money, not enough money, prisoners riot, rioters die, news coverage of deaths make money, prisoners fighting to death becomes reality show, reality show loses popularity, change fight to death to fight to death in cars, fight to death in cars makes money. Simple. Now we know. It doesn't matter how good the film itself may be, I'm sick of movies like Rise of the Lycans, The Scorpion King, Exorcist: The Beginning, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning and Paranormal Activity 2, (most of which were crap by the way) that advertise they will let you "see how it all began", and they don't! Sure, maybe you find out how SOMETHING began, but it doesn't take you all the way back. At least Chains of Olympus and Gods of the Arena are upfront that they're only prequels, not "Origin Stories".
I can't decide which order to suggest to people you should watch this franchise in. Honestly I say give Death Race 2000 a miss all together, but do you watch them in the order they were released, or their set chronology? I'm thinking #1 then #2, but I'll never know which would be better. I just say to do it that way, because you'll be less disappointed by the absence of almost every character from the prequel in Death Race if you watch them that way around. 14K is still around, and so is Lists, but that's really it. The films got one of the best soundtracks I've come across in a while, but other than that there isn't anything particularly special. Still, it's a Hell of a lot of fun.
But to be perfectly fair, as far as direct to video movies go, it's not bad. At least the filmmakers made an obvious effort to deliver a quality product with what they had. The film is not only an origin story for the character of Frankenstein, it's also an origin story for the Death Race itself. So the viewer will have to be patient, because for the first half of the movie, the race doesn't even exist. What we have is a simple story of loyalty, honor among thieves, and how payback is a bitch.
The acting ranges from mediocre to horrid. Established, and talented, actors like Sean Bean and Ving Rhames basically cash a paycheck, but hold their own with ease. Lauren Cohan actually does a solid job as the ruthless, bitch on wheels, creator of the race...and DAMN does that woman look good in tight clothes. HOT!!
Unfortunately the movie's worst performance comes from it's lead actor. In the first movie we had the reigning king of cool in action movies, Jason Statham. Here, we have Statham wannabe Luke Goss. I'd never heard of him before, and after watching him here, I can see why. I understand he's a musician by trade, and my advice to him...don't quit your day job. Not only is he a lousy actor, but for an action movie hero, he's about as tough as a cotton ball.
But you don't watch a movie like this for Oscar winning performances, or deep insights into human nature. You watch this movie to see the cars go fast, and see stuff get blowed up real good! For that, you get your money's worth here. Granted the action scenes owe their success more to fast editing than to stunt work, but it gets the job done. One surprise though is that if there are any recycled car shots from the first movie, I didn't notice them. But they do, in fact, use real cars, real stuntmen, and do their stuff for real, in camera. Minimal use of cgi here, and for that I give the movie a big thumbs up.
So, it's not high art, or even A class action by any means. But the cars move fast, the women are hot, and the blood flows free. For a movie of this type, you could do a lot worse.