Movie Review: Death Race

Image result for death race movie poster free use“Okay, cocksucker. F*** with me and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk.”

Been waiting to watch this one for a bit. Say hello, 2019.

With this piece comes the return of Winners and Losers, a series I’ve left dormant for far too long. Updates will be put up by end of the week and Round 3 is on its way. Hopefully Statham can get his score in the green again.

I watched Killer Elite the other day. Gonna watch it a third time at some point later this year for the last time. It’s a doozy.

Was hoping Death Race might be a breath of fresh air. It was not.

Death Race comes from the same vein as The Running Man: deadly reality television in a world rife with economic turmoil and anarchy. Nearing close to the apocalypse it seems, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. The end makes people do desperate things and become the darkest versions of themselves. There are no heroes, only victors.

There are quite a couple of motifs that could be exploited here: survival, the life and death of morality, desperation and what any creature does when they’re pushed to the brink.

Paul W.S. Anderson is not the guy to go to if you want real storytelling. If you handed Paul a canvas to paint, he’d probably unload a shotgun on it. On one of his more creative days, maybe he’d be generous enough to use paintballs.

Let’s not mix words. Paul W.S. Anderson is the guy who throws chaos on a camera lens and calls it entertainment. Watching the Resident Evil films (thankfully only watched one though I’ll see them all eventually) is like being injected with epilepsy. It’s very perverse and very direct but also very blunt and uncomplicated. Bashing someone’s head in with a baseball bat doesn’t take a lot of talent. Cutting them 100 times and keeping them alive is far more terrifying and insightful. Paul much prefers option A.

And that’s fine, by the way. This post isn’t about how awful of a director Mr. Anderson is. It is only a comment that Paul W.S. Anderson either doesn’t excel or doesn’t prefer stories that involve high-end character focus or dynamic story arcs. His talents are in the visual arena. While the Resident Evil franchise sometimes does a solid job filming in a video game frame of reference, it also becomes corny and visually glaring at times. He doesn’t have a fine hand, in my opinion. He has a brazen one. That works sometimes. Michael Bay has a brazen hand, too and he’s seen quite a few of his films hit box office gold.

But if you put this story to print, it would be bland. It would not be a fun read. The dialogue isn’t compelling, aside from that line I included at the top. There would be a lot of boring chapters and I can’t imagine doing a reading for this would be that interactive. The idea of Frankenstein is an opportunity waiting to be seized: a man with a mask because of all the wrecks he’s been in but also a man who seems to be incapable of losing or dying. Symbols can be powerful things.

Yet Anderson wouldn’t seize on that potential and neither will the penmanship. It’s just pushing towards the next time Paul gets to unload some bullets and bazookas.

Death Race isn’t a race against time or against tension. It’s a race to the next time Anderson gets to explode some shit.

Which is again fine. If you want braindead entertainment, you’ll love this, but if you’re looking for character, the intangibles that true story offers, look elsewhere. Anderson isn’t going to give it to you. I do think that says something about Anderson’s breadth or lack thereof as a director. Even one obsessed with the visuals knows when an avenue as large as this should be taken. Something other than the equivalent of a mannequin in that car would make those explosions look more visceral and feel more impactful. As it stands, Statham could be blown to Uranus and it wouldn’t matter. It’s the sort of neglectful storytelling that pisses me off. I am not an Anderson fan.

Hollywood’s business structure is also responsible for this waste. This reeks of suits in a board room putting together a storyboard in a half hour, throwing $45 million at a dude known for explosive dunces and watches the green come in from those who are willing to settle for this second-rate entertainment.

I don’t know if you can even call Death Race art. It’s disingenuous and wholly incompetent. Anderson still has a fair touch for visuals but to fully ignore everything else that makes stories what they are is malpractice and he deserves to be criticized for it.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (TakenCaptain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe Avengers)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The 40-Year-Old VirginThe ConjuringSinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable Guy)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The RoadDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Wind RiverTommy BoyDeath NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great Wall)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Death Race: 50.

Death Race plays a fiddle of violence and gearheads but does nothing to truly separate itself from the pack. It’s a formula that’s been done before and I simply can’t give it props for that. It’s another loss on Statham’s record. I’m still a fan but man, he has some blots on his rap sheet with me.

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