Death Race Review

Published 7 years ago by

Short Version: Don’t ask for more than what’s being offered and you will enjoy it.

death race production still Death Race Review
Screen Rant reviews Death Race: Fast cars, big guns, hot chicks. As promised.

If there is one thing that can be said about Jason Statham, it’s that the man is an action star you can tell is hungry for success, willing to put life and limb on the line for your entertainment. And that effort usually shows in the finished product.

Death Race is no exception.

Naysayers have accosted it for being a mindless, video-game-wannabe, T&A parading, testosterone-ridden mess of a film. (If there is one thing I hate, it’s those whose only “critical” talent is stating the super-obvious.)

And indeed, Death Race is every single thing critics have accused it of being. But for those of us capable of discerning exactly what a film is offering, all that means is that the movie delivers on what it promises, no more, no less. Whether that offer is something you want to receive depends on you.

The plot, as you might imagine, is pretty simplistic: In the future America’s economy has spiraled out of control. Unemployment is rampant amongst the working class, the government’s position has been weakened, leaving private corporations to call the shots. In these dire conditions, many people are forced to turn to lawlessness, causing the prison system to overflow with inmates until a corporate shark known only as Hennessey (Joan Allen), offers up a novel idea: transform prisoners into the new gladiators, pitting them against one another in battle for the viewing pleasure of Web junkies worldwide.

And so, Death Race is born.

Enter Jason Statham as Jensen Ames, a former badass NASCAR driver turned loving husband/father, struggling to make ends meet. When an assassin murders his wife, Ames takes the fall for her death and is sent to prison. There, Hennessey makes him an offer he can’t refuse: either Ames can don the iron mask of perennial Death Race champion, Frankenstein, or he can rot in prison and never see his daughter again. Obviously Ames chooses the former, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie to talk about.

What happens next can be summed up in two words: Death Racing. Each stock-character racer (an Asian, a Skinhead, a Latino, a Black guy,) is given a car with enough armor to be considered a tank, mounted with obscenely large (and deafeningly loud) guns, some defensive weapons like smoke screens and oil slicks, and a hot-chick navigator to help them steer the course, find shortcuts, etc. Like any good video game, the race is held in three stages, and weapons can only be accessed by driving over electronic “power-ups” that look like manhole covers. After 15 minutes of setup, the drivers start their engines and murder and mayhem ensue for the next 70 minutes.

(How Joan Allen got stuck in this quagmire is a secret only the Devil knows for sure.)

There is some plot involved now and again, like Ames uncovering the conspiracy behind his wife’s murder and getting revenge on those involved; “Frankenstein’s” long-standing vendetta with fellow death-racer, Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson); and a hackneyed third act, complete with a cringe-worthy sugar-coated ending. But none of that matters. The (only) moments where Death Race shines is during the racing scenes, which director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) films with an unflinching eye for fast action, old-school stuntman F/X, buckets of gore, drab colors and enough explosive eye-candy absurdity to keep the A.D.D. generation interested. (The sound effects hammering your ear drums also make it hard to sleep through this movie.)

So, final word: Forget about plot, dialogue, character development, or the definition of the word “originality.” If you like fast cars, video game absurdity and hot chicks, go to a Sunday matinee (or wait for a rainy Sunday to watch the DVD), turn your brain volume all the way down to zero, and enjoy Death Race for the guilty pleasure that it is.

And if you can’t do that… well, my friend, you’re probably watching movies for all the wrong reasons to begin with.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. Spot on review, Kofi! Also, many may expect Statham’s martial arts but they won’t get it in this film, and it shouldn’t be in it. This is totally a guilty pleasure movie. Did you notice the first guy they got to play Frankenstien sounded like David Caradine? Well, at least to me he did.

  2. I liked the movie, it was lots of fun to watch with friends, I especially liked the excessive violence and stylized grittiness. The executions where just awesome, and morbidly fun. My only complaint was the very end,
    Spoiler -

    I thought it was funny that he kept Machine gun Joe around. I would NOT have allowed some guy I met in prison who I witnessed kill several people and threatened my life, near my daughter. Forget that!

    But to at least rent it when it comes out, watch it while you enjoy some drinks with the guys. Or if you have cool female friends who enjoy a bunch of blood and cars, either way watch it!

  3. “And if you can’t do that… well, my friend, you’re probably watching movies for all the wrong reasons to begin with.”

    Then I’m probably watching movies for all the wrong reasons to begin with, at least by your definition of the right reasons.

    Let’s face it, I watch movies to be entertained, and for me that requires a plot, dialog, and character development. I do not find action and explosions just for the sake of having action and explosions entertaining. They must be there to support the story, and be supported by the story, rather than just being there to have them in the movie.

    It sounds like this is a movie I will be avoiding. Shame, though, since I enjoyed the original.

  4. No, I go to Marble Slab, and I get different flavors depending on what they have.

    Putting my desert preferences aside, when it comes to my entertainment, I don’t find pure action entertaining. To entertain me, a movie or TV series must engage my mind, something pure action movies, which Death Race sounds like it is, have a spectacular record of failure at.

    “turn your brain volume all the way down to zero,” you said. I’ve never been able to do that except when I fall asleep. Considering I’ve demonstrated the ability to sleep through an earthquake and a hurricane, I suspect following your advice while watching this movie would see me sleeping through it as well.

  5. I usually like movies with a good plot, character development, and all of that stuff, but part of it depends on how seriously the movie takes itself. Certain movies make it clear to you that it’s just there for wild explosions and a lot of noise. But just that fact alone doesn’t make it enjoyable.

    It still has to provide something that you’ve never seen before or are not sick of. Usually adding some good humor helps too. I don’t know, I think I’ll be watching this as a rental, not sure if I’m willing to spend $8 on it, my friend gets free rentals with that monthly subscription, so I’ll just watch it when he gets it so I can see it for free. But I’m not going to give up hope that I might enjoy it though…

    What I did hear was that they didn’t use any CG in the stunts, it was all practical. That’s pretty interesting.

    It was funny though, in the previews that guy explains those miniguns as “30mm cannons” when he meant 30 CALIBER, not 30mm, it’s a HUGE difference, 30mm rounds are the rounds an A-10 uses in its GAU-8 cannon. That gun itself weighs more than that entire Mustang, lol.

  6. @ FlameStrike:

    Do you go into Baskin Robbins and always order the same flavor, too?

  7. Hmmm, this is prob the most positive review I’ve read for Death Race. I love the original, but I don’t think I can bring myself to see this (unless it was free on TV).

  8. I liked the movie and the review is pretty much spot on.
    It’s just thrilling and you have the itch to wait for the next leg stage of the racing.
    It’s just plain fun and enjoyment.

  9. The review is right on the money, its pretty much your standard paul anderson review. All his films boil down to is pure guilty pleasure with some good music and impressive looking sequences such as the buried vegas of extinction (he wrote it anyway), unveiling the pyramid in AVP and that pull back shot at the end of resi 1.

  10. Saw this movie. Was not very good, but not terrible. I haven’t seen the original so I can’t compare it to the original, but it just seemed like SpyHunter when it first came out on PS2 + gore. I think Statham did this to get practice for Transporter 3.

  11. de film was toch gewoon kanker hard wat zeiken mensen xD

  12. As a girl dragged by her boyfriend to see this movie and as a person who was in a recent head on collision with a 18-wheeler I actually enjoyed the movie tremendously. Of course, I do have knack for enjoying those movies that in which most people find horrible and those in which are given two thumbs down, but well- it is what it is. After watching this I felt like I too could be a driver in Death Race.. umm… maybe that’s not a good thing…. But the movie was exciting. Thrilling. That last race scene where the truck came after the two cars.. AHHH! It still gets me fired up!

    ahhh… I’m just a girl, what do I know?!?

  13. I finally saw this on DVD and have to agree with Kofi 100%. Sure, I’m a stickler for plot and characterization – but there are also movies that I refer to as “check your brain at the door” flicks that can be enjoyed at a basic level.

    Some succeed (like this one, and IMHO “Punisher: War Zone”) but others are just plain bad.

    Call it a guilty pleasure. :-P


  14. what the hell is wrong with you people? this movie is pure garbage.

  15. I just saw this the other day and LOVED IT! It’s funny, I’d watched Punisher the day before and only sat through it because I’d paid to rent it. I usually love all that gun play and mindless violence but I like a little plot to get me started. Not just “Punisher goes around killing drug cartel members on principal.” YAWN!

    Death Race (I wasn’t a fan of the original DR 2k but I was a LOT younger then). Anyhow, the whole reason for revenge is set up in the first 15 minutes and the rest is Jason Statham practicing killing players for the big pay off.
    My lust for killing was satisfied in very interesting ways and
    the ending wasn’t ironic, or depressing or super happy. It was JUST right.

    I love me some garbage some times. I love Jason Statham and this movie proved that he didn’t need to have his shirt ripped off differently in each scene to make it worth watching.

    I turned my brain off and enjoyed it. Which is much more that I can say for Punisher (NOT the Thomas Jane version, loved that one) and Max Payne (love Mark Wahlberg, loved Shooter). Max Payne wasn’t just a play on words or an ironic title. They meant it. Still, I’d give Max Payne an Oscar over the waste of direct to DVD Punisher.