Paul W.S. Anderson | 2008 | 89 mins | USA
P.W.S. Anderson (i.e. the bad Anderson) has been a king of high-octane mediocrity for years, but this one takes the cake. I can’t honestly recommend this film to anyone, but if you saw and enjoyed the original Death Race 2000 (also reviewed here by me) then please do yourself a favour and avoid this lame remake at all cost.
For some reason, the director and producers of this film decided that it would be an awesome idea to take a fun sci-fi action comedy and turn it into a gritty and deadly serious action thriller. Even worse than that is the fact that the rollicking ‘70s comedy version of this story is a considerably more risky, daring, outrageous and incisive political satire than the remake. What was the point of making this film serious if all the bite was going to be taken out of the script?
Here’s a point by point summary of bad decisions:
1. Turning a cross country race into an in-prison track race makes it duller to watch. I guess there were a lot more machine guns, but is that really enough?
2. You can’t have a hilarious blonde bombshell Nazi driver now that it takes place in a men’s prison, but replacing her with a downplayed good ol’ boy whose confederate flags are barely visible on his oil smeared uniform is a shitty cop-out.
3. Explaining everything about Frankenstein in some ham-fisted expository dialogue at the beginning of the film makes him unmysterious and uncompelling. Oh, and then they give him a little baby back home to pine for. You could drown in the emotional depth here.
4. Last but not least, the new version has NO PEDESTRIAN DEATHS. BULLSHIT. Way to take no risks at all, Anderson!
The only dim rays of hope in this otherwise depressing world are two characters who didn’t exist in the original - Joan Allen as the pinched, mega-bitch prison warden and Ian McShane as “Coach”, the lovably philosophical mechanic who heads Frankenstein’s pit crew. Tyrese Gibson is pretty good as the reimagined Machine Gun Joe, but not even action-darling Jason Statham can save it. Just wait for Transporter 3, honestly.