Death Race 2000 (Rated R) Rated: 4 stars

    The original Death Race 2000 was an exploitative Roger Corman classic, featuring a very young Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine. Death Race (89 minutes) the remake, helmed by Paul W.S. Anderson of Event Horizon fame, is a fun B-movie that highlights all the violence and explosions of the first movie, without the campy over-the-top theme costumes. In a clever nod to the source material, an uncredited David Carradine does the voiceover work for the character he played in the 1975 version, Frankenstein. Much like The Running Man and Series 7: The Contenders, Death Race extends the modern trend of reality television to its most extreme form; a reality show in which the death of the participants is the highlight of the show. 
    {mosimage}The film begins in a future United States suffering from a complete economic breakdown. Prisons have become privatized and inmates compete against each other in car races for the chance at release papers. Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson) is fighting it out with Frankenstein (voiced by Carradine) when something goes wrong, and Frankenstein’s navigator (Natalie Martinez) ejects while Frankenstein’s car flips and explodes. Meanwhile, Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), an out-of-work steel worker, is sentenced to the Terminal Island prison for a crime he did not commit. Once there, the warden of Terminal Island, Hennessy (Joan Allen), convinces Ames to participate in the Race. When he agrees, he is provided with a pit crew, including Coach (Ian McShane!  He’s punk rock!) and Gunner (Jacob Vargas). In stage one of the race, several drivers are killed and the ratings skyrocket. In stage two of the race, Jenson takes the initiative, challenging the rules of the game. Finally, in stage three of the race, he must make the choice to play the game and reap the reward or challenge the system and risk everything. 
    Not much from the original made it into the remake. First, as in the original, the “death race” is televised. Second, the murderous drivers are paired up with scantily clad navigators. Also similar to the 1975 original, the contestants’ personas are distilled to nicknames, such as Machine Gun Joe. While there is a shady authority figure, it is not the president. Instead, the remake introduces the character of Hennessey to play the evilly-motivated antagonist to Statham’s hero. Allen, as the warden of the prison colony Terminal Island, seems to channel a combination of Hilary Clinton and President Roslin from Battlestar Galactica. She will shoot (or airlock) first and ask questions later. Fans of the original should be reassured by the references to the original, but those who missed the first version will not find it difficult to figure out what is going on. 
    No, this film will not go down in history as the greatest movie ever made. But, it certainly is a fun little remake, heavy on the fiery explosions, bloody decapitations, and crunching metal. There is even some social commentary. The soundtrack is a good mood setter, the eye candy abounds, and the acting is amazingly sincere. This is an action film that rises above the rest because of the overall quality of its lead actors.   

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