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Death Race: Like Mario Kart! If Mario Killed People!

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BRUTAL AND LOUD and silly and gory and full of big explosions and even bigger breasts, Death Race is the sort of movie that people who don't like to enjoy themselves will cite as evidence of our shrinking attention spans, or of the spillover of reality TV onto movie screens, or of the demise of cinema as an art form. But there's another way of looking at Death Race, too: Sure, it might be all of the above things, but it's also really fucking fun.

A remake of 1975's pulpy, Roger Corman-produced Death Race 2000, this version comes courtesy of writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson, the auteur behind art-house favorites like Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Alien vs. Predator. It's probably a bit too generous to compare Anderson to revered schlock-meister Corman (who also gets producer credit here), but it's hard to find fault with the choice of Anderson as director: Anderson's Death Race looks like epilepsy and feels like a fistfight, and his script was probably drunkenly scribbled on some Post-it Notes, but his juvenile giddiness is more or less contagious.

I guess I should get to the plot. In the near future, Jason Statham plays some dude who's framed for the murder of his wife; naturally, he ends up in a prison where the inmates are forced to race cars that've been outfitted with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Millions of people tune in to see these convicts kill each other, and overseeing it all is eeeevil Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen?!), who promises Statham his freedom if he assumes the role of a popular (and dead) racer named Frank- enstein. Soon enough, Statham gets a hot navigator (Natalie Martinez), and cars start crashing, bodies start splattering, and everything starts exploding.

There are a few bewildering changes from the original: Then, the race took place across a dystopian America where racers could mow down innocent bystanders for extra points; now, the action's limited to one measly island, and extra credit pedestrians have been replaced with Mario Kart-like bonus items scattered around the track. But such deficiencies are actually kinda minor. At a time when most action flicks are neutered into PG-13 family flicks and the closest thing to a badass car movie we've had in a while is (ugh, this is depressing) The Fast and the Furious, Death Race is a refreshing hunk of dumb, loud, smash-'em-up pulp. I mean, c'mon: It's called Death Race. I think you know what to expect.

Death Race
Rated R · 89 min.
Official Site: www.deathracemovie.net
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson, Robert Thom, Charles Griffith and Ib Melchior
Producer: Jeremy Bolt, Paul W.S. Anderson, Paula Wagner, Roger Corman and Tom Cruise
Cast: Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez, Ian McShane, Joan Allen, Robin Shou, Jacob Vargas, Robert LaSardo, Max Ryan and Frederick Koehler

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