Under Review: ‘Death Race 2’


I am not sure how a movie with bad acting and bad editing can possibly turn out to be quite entertaining, but this was the case with “Death Race 2.”

I really enjoyed the recent remake of “Death Race” — even though I was not a fan of the original with David Caradine and Sylvester Stallone. In the original, the Death Race was a reality “hit” show from  the future, where the racers would get points from running over pedestrians with their cars. It was, to me, a thoughtless kill-for-points look at our future society that really turned me off, not to mention they kill of a young unknown Stallone — I just didn’t like it. 

But the new version, with Jason Statham, seemed like it could redeem its predecessor by having an actual plot, and a purpose for the cruel violence — survival and the pursuit of liberty. In the new version and in “Death Race 2,” the prisoners can race in the dangerous event to win their freedom. If they can win five straight races, they are pardoned, no matter what crime they committed. The desperate inmates find it’s the only way out of the island-prison, and will stop at nothing.

The first movie was action packed and it co-starred Tyrese Gibson. I enjoyed how events unfolded in that one, so despite this new movie going straight to video, I was interested. The only catch was that this new movie would be a prequel. So I was curious to see the origin of Death Races, and that is exactly what it was.

Let me give you a brief summary. The movie started out telling the story of “driver” Luke. A bank heist goes wrong and he ends up in the island prison where he learns about televised death match fights. He manages to find himself right smack in the middle of the fights, which are actual hand-to-hand fights between the inmates.  Soon, the ratings drop and a new “event” is proposed, the Death Race, and the origin of the races is explained.

And that is the best thing about the movie: the races. When the races started – and it took a while – they were plentiful and well done. I loved the way they filmed the stunts and the racing action.

Like the previous movies, the racers get attractive female co-pilots and here is my secret reason for watching this movie: Tanit Phoenix (pictured). A while back, it was mentioned she was in the running as a contender for the role of Wonder Woman for a proposed TV series. I immediately looked her up and noticed she definitely looked the part. She also has — in some pictures — a slight resemblance to Linda Carter the previous television Wonder Woman who is most loved. 

Watching Tanit in this movie didn’t help me to actually discover her acting abilities, since it doesn’t really let her do much. She definitely looked beautiful, or looked happy, or looked scared or look sexy. All her looks were fine, but her lines in this movie are minimal and with the terrible editing, they show her smiling at moments of the races when she should have been scared, or serious and emotionless when she should have been expressing some type of emotion. Oh well, I will catch her next movie and give her another chance, despite rumors the Woman Woman project has been dropped (I hold onto the hope it can still be a possibility). And one thing that watching Tanit in action demonstrated to me was she definitely looks the part, more than anyone I have seen yet.

Ving Rhames is also in this movie and I must admit I didn’t even recognize him from the “Mission Impossible” movies. I remember him being a good actor then. In “Death Race 2,” his acting was exactly what you would expect for a straight to DVD movie, or worse. I have always been a fan, but I must admit he disappointed me. Does this change my opinion about him and his previous or future projects? Absolutely not, he is very talented and a heck of a cool guy.

I thought you would like to know about the villain of the movie: Sean Bean, who plays Markus Kaine. He is without a doubt a terrific actor, but in this movie he is sub par and nothing he says is understandable, probably because he is always eating and has his mouth full. So, they don’t take advantage of his beautiful accent in this movie. Instead, he is more unlikeable than scary and evil.

Perhaps the best actor in this movie was Danny Trejo, who plays the character of Goldberg. His character was surprisingly kind and unflinching. He seems to have been a long time inmate and knew how things worked netter than anyone, and perhaps had the respect of the rest. But his character was unwavering in his ways, and helpful and even kind. Yet never appearing weak or at the mercy of others. He was definitely a surprising asset to this movie. I wonder if they will do another one with him again.

Luke Goss is the star of the movie as Carl “Luke” Lucas. He was dry throughout most of the movie. What I got out of him is probably exactly why he was cast; he fits the part he played. He is just a street-smart, experienced street racer, hit-man type of guy.  I can definitely see him this way, and he played this well. He also looked comfortable behind the wheel, which is a must if you’re the star of a movie called “Death Race.” You may think he was cast because of a resemblance to Statham, but I didn’t see it. He had his own look, with a very distant Statham feel to him. The end result of his character made me want to rush out and watch the first “Death Race” right after watching this movie ended.

Either way, despite these complaints, at the end the movie was entertaining. I watched it with my wife, and I remember wondering what she would say when the credits rolled. I remained quiet and waited; she looked at me and said, “that was pretty good.”

I remember thinking, “No, it can’t be.”

But she was right, the movie delivered with action and fun. It had Tanit’s character Katrina, and that definitely made it better. So do I recommend this movie to others? If you enjoy action movies and well-choreographed car races and racing action, then yes, you will like this movie. And even if you don’t like it, you will still be entertained.

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2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. bigge3021 #

    Great job on the article, buddy. It’s sounds interesting to see. Kind of unsure in seeing it because the only actor I know is Ving Rhames. =)

  2. Adam Poynter #

    I go this one because I was a fan of Death Race, but haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. I dont expect stellar acting, especially in a direct to dvd prequel, but thats not why you watch these genre of movies, its for the fun and gore.

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