A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 162 – Death Race (2008)

Death Race (2008) – August 9th, 2010

I’ve been having a hard time summoning up the willpower to write a review tonight. On one hand, it could be first-day-back-to-work blues (everything waited until I got back to explode). On the other, it could be that this movie is just not inspiring much in the way of words for me. I mean, it’s not like there were a whole lot of words in it. Explosions and mechanics and sheet metal and guns, yes. Words? Not so much. There comes a point when the dialogue to explosions ratio tips so far towards the latter that the only portion of my brain paying any attention is the portion that likes fireworks and Destroyed In Seconds (but not Mythbusters, cause Mythbusters makes me think while I watch the fun big booms). And words just stop forming. Maybe that’s how movies like this get made.

There is a plot. I feel like I should address it, I guess. It’s not a terribly impressive or complex plot, especially since there’s what feels vaguely like what might have been intended to be suspense and then they decided not to bother making it suspenseful and just switch to vengeance. Vengeance makes for more explosion excuses whereas suspense just doesn’t get the heart pumping, you know? It makes you think, and we don’t want to think in this movie! We want things to blow up! We want guns and blood and screaming! We want dudes kicking the hell out of each other! So screw suspense. Frankly, I don’t even count anything I might say as a spoiler because this movie is so blatant in what it’s doing. Even the one twist at the end isn’t so much a twist as a slight curve.

So right, Jensen Ames is a steelyard worker in a futuristic USA where the economy’s gone to hell and prisons are all privately run for profit. He gets laid off, goes home, gets jumped by a dude in a balaclava and framed for his wife’s murder. Once in prison he’s railroaded into participating in the incredibly lucrative and incredibly dangerous Death Race, a three round race with convicts as drivers and navigators and fully armed and armored vehicles, plus guards with machine guns, traps on the course, giant tanker trucks with flamethrowers. You get the idea. The whole Death Race thing is run by the warden, an impeccably dressed woman named Hennessey (and how they got Joan Allen to play her, I have no idea). Hennessey set Jensen up in the first place, having his wife killed so she can get him and his former race car driver skills into her jail so he can take the place of recently (and secretly) deceased Frankenstein, who always wore a mask. So no one will know! Of course, Jensen figures this out within like, seconds, and the rest of the movie involves him and his pit crew (headed by Ian McShane, who is so close to dead to me after this interview about a film I deny the existence of) getting his car ready and racing and getting in fights with other crews and drivers and the testosterone is so thick you need a machete to get through all the muscle.

Oh yeah, and he had a kid and Hennessey taunts him about how he’s not a good father for her. Which would work a whole hell of a lot better had she not murdered the girl’s mother and gotten her father sent to prison to engage in a DEATH RACE. Me? I would be taking her word on morality and appropriate parental figures with a whole salt mine. Anyhow, revenge, fight, race, kill, revenge, kill, kill, revenge, revenge, boobies, fire, explosion, race, explosion, revenge, kill, and so on and so forth. I mentioned to a friend that I was watching this tonight and he described it as an endurance test. Normally I’d be all “Well, it’s not bad…” except yes, yes it is. There are parts of it that are fun. The explody parts. I think there were clever quips, and an attempt at tension when Hennessey plots to kill Jensen, but mostly what I take away from this movie is that lots of things blew up.

Okay, I take it back. I did learn a few things. One: if you give explosives and live ammo and armor plated cars to convicts, you should have more than a chainlink fence at the gates out of the prison. Come on, a car is a deadly weapon by itself! Two: I already knew this, but this movie reinforced my belief that women in action movies are magical beings who always wear their hair down even if it gets in their faces and would be a major visibility issue for us normal women. Three: You can try to end your prison break movie like The Shawshank Redemption, with two ex-cons, one of whom was innocent all along, living happily together in Mexico, but unless your prison break movie actually is The Shawshank Redemption, it will not make your movie awesome. Try adding an explosion. Maybe that would help.

August 9, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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