This week I tackle the action movie: a genre that promises high octane moments, fights, chases and Michael Bay inspired explosions. However, with such a formula in place, certain elements can therefore suffer: spectacular sequences and daring stunts can often replace other integral parts such as the story. The remake of Death Race is a prime example of (desired) style over substance, and doesn’t really try to come across as anything other than brainless all-out testosterone-fuelled carnage.
Ex-con Jensen (Jason Statham) is forced to partake in a brutal and notorious prison ‘sport’ involving inmates racing and inevitably killing each other until one winner remains.
Even the premise for this is fitting, and is the most basic of plots that any monkey would be hard taxed to lose track of.
*If you’ve not seen the film then the analysis that follows contains spoilers*
What the trailer reveals
Aside from the paper-thin plot, it’s fair to say that this film obviously relies on its action. What we are given access to is the fullest extent of character exposition for Statham’s hard-knock chunkster and complete set-up of the film. This isn’t difficult to do, so fine. What does become a problem is when the trailer begins to overexpose the ‘good stuff’, or what is deemed to be – aka the action.
The genre is there for one reason only, and that is to entertain. Pure and simple mindless bone-crunching engagement, allowing you to leave you brain at the door and enjoy the gratuity. Perfect.
However, this trailer excels in showing pretty much all of the fun violence, one liners, and, most importantly, deaths and battles during the race. You’re probably then asking yourself ‘why should I know go and see this?’, and that, friends, is a valid question.
With the story and structure of the ‘death race’ laid bare for all to see, there really is little purpose going to sit through it, as any surprise as to how characters die, wind up, which cars get destroyed and who team up with who, are all depicted here.
Some audiences might also think that, aside from the muscular men shooting the shit out of each other in Robot Wars style cars, something else is needed to spice it up; and by this I mean the T & A. Such a film isn’t complete without scantily clad danger-horny women ready to get into the thick of the action in one way or another. Yet, we’re shown who they are – including the Michael Bayesque slow mo shot of their perfectly formed derrière - and which one teams up with The Stath.
So far it’s not the end of the world, but isn’t a great way to explicitly promote the film content, surely?
What’s more, the flimsy plot is also revealed when the Prison Warden (played by Joan Allen) says “we’re going to kill him”, just after a guard states “he knows we set him up”. Well, that’s the plot ‘twist’ exposed as well as pretty much all the action shown before our eyes, so what is left to be seen? Not a lot really besides a muscular, topless Jason Statham doing some pull-ups.. No wait, we see that, too.
With the set pieces, sequences, deaths, narrative structure and plot revealed, the element of thrills and surprise are totally gone. But then again, you’re not going to see this movie with the expectation of emotionally deep characters and a compelling story, are you?
Spoiler rating: 6/10