An ex- race car driver finds himself framed for his wife’s murder and spending his sentence at Terminal Island, which hosts the latest reality TV craze Death Race, where convicts race armed vehicles with the chance of freedom if they win enough races.
Based on the classic 1975 movie Death Race 2000, Death Race takes the premise of a deadly car race and then changes everything else. In the original, the race was across America with bonus points given to the number, and type, of pedestrians run down and killed. In this movie, there is a race track designed around the prison.
In the 2008 version, Jason Statham plays the wrongly convicted Jenson Ames who assumes the identity of Frankenstein, a driver who continues to race no matter how badly injured he gets, who ironically is dead. Frankenstein’s biggest rival is Machine Gun Joe, played by Tyrese Gibson, who wants to both win the race and kill Frankenstein. In the original, Frankenstein was played by David Carradine and Machine Gun Joe was portrayed by a young, unknown named Sylvester Stallone, a year before his huge movie, Rocky.
It is strange to see the movie is set in 2012, just four years after the movie was actually made. The action and racing is fun to watch, with lots of special features on both the cars and the track. Joan Allen as the prison warden Hennessey is stunning to watch but given such a limited role tends to chomp on the scenery too much. The completely under rated Ian McShane also features as Coach, a prisoner who has served his sentence but won’t leave the prison.
Death Race is a very enjoyable movie although with a lot of profanity. It takes the original idea and takes it in a different direction. If you like your violence on wheels, you will enjoy this movie, and if you do, check out the original!