Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Death Race 2

It’s unlikely anyone cared that much about the origins of the Death Race seen in the first film nor how Frankenstein, a character killed off in the first five minutes, became involved with the race, but here we are. David Carradine, the star of DEATH RACE 2000, contributed his voice to the masked Frankenstein in DEATH RACE, but Luke Goss (HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY) plays the role in DEATH RACE 2, a direct-to-video sequel shot in South Africa.

I don’t think it’s unfair for the audience to expect plenty of Death Racing in a movie titled DEATH RACE 2, but nobody told director Roel Reine (THE MARINE 2 and 12 ROUNDS 2) that, and you would think he’d be smart enough to know. Nope, it takes DEATH RACE 2 an hour to present its first Death Race, but will you still be watching? Goss is a dull leading man, and female lead Lauren Cohan (THE WALKING DEAD) is all cleavage and no talent, leaving veterans Ving Rhames (PULP FICTION), Sean Bean (GOLDENEYE), and Danny Trejo (SPY KIDS) to do the heavy lifting, acting wise.

Before he was Frankenstein, a prisoner at Terminal Island and the most famous (so we’re told) Death Racer ever, he was Carl Lucas, getaway driver for gangster Marcus Kane (Bean) on the most poorly planned and executed bank robbery of all time. Lucas is caught and sent to Terminal Island, which is a for-profit owned by Weyland (Rhames), who also owns a television network. TV producer September Jones (Cohan) creates prison death matches as a ratings boost for Weyland’s network, and when ratings begin to drop, graduates (finally) the Death Race.

Casting Trejo as a prison inmate is indicative of the originality of the screenplay by CHAOS’ Tony Giglio (from a story co-written by DEATH RACE director Paul W.S. Anderson). Like the first movie, the stunts and action scenes are quite good. Reine, being a better director than Anderson, is hamstruck by a dull leading man, an inessential story, and a plot that doesn’t introduce its first Death Race until Act 3, but manages to pull off some exciting action. Not enough to make DEATH RACE 2 a better film than the original, but it isn’t worse either.

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