Monday 15 November 2010


Out now on DVD is this new Death Race style thriller.
Read my review and find out more, after the jump...

Every seven years the worlds greatest assassins take part in a ruthless contest of last man standing. Watching them via CCTV are a group of billionaires, gambling on who the victor will be. The favourite is the returning champion Joshua Harlow (Ving Rhames, always the strong silent type), re-entering the competition to find his wife's killer. He thinks he knows who it is, but needs to know why she was targeted. The combatants, each with their own respective skills, are implanted with a tracking device to aide in the hunt for each other, but after accidentally ingesting one of the tracking devices, local drunk Father MacAvoy (Robert Carlyle) is added as a player in the contest, teaming up with the repenting Lai Lai (Kelly Hu) to avoid being quickly offed. 

In what far flung destination is this film set in? Bali? Hong Kong? Dubai? Nope, it's set in Middlesbrough. Plain as ever, just off the A66, Middlesbrough. No offense to any residents of that area, but even you must think that's a stupid place to set an action film. Also, as the film makes no use of any local landmarks, I must assume that the city has some personal connection to the filmmakers.

The most obvious critique of this film is just how derivative it is. It's a little bit Death Race, a little bit Terminator and a lot Running Man. Oh, and a bit like Series 7: The Contenders too. It certainly has a bizarre cast, bringing some international talent into this assassin's smackdown. I couldn't help but jump to the conclusion that Ving Rhames must have some bills to pay and this must have been made before Lost's Ian Somerhalder found himself another hit TV series in Vampire Diaries. Both men seem very out of place in the cold north-east of England, doing their cat and mouse routine through some very foreign backdrops. The casting that puzzles me most is Robert Carlyle. Why a man of such talent would take on such a blank role as the wimpy drunk is beyond me, as he's deserving and capable of so much more.

Highlights are delivered by Sebastien Foucan, the French Parkour specialist best known for his appearance in Casino Royale (as well as endless YouTube videos). Despite being so 2006, it's still highly entertaining to watch Foucan's parkour shenanigans. Much like his leaps between buildings, his appearances are brief but thrilling. He's a skilled athlete who, personally, I'd put all my money on in this contest.

There's some deliciously splatterific kills on show, but they're not backed up enough by a credible story. In a scene that defies all geographical logic, Lai Lai spends around 4 hours driving the unfortunate Father MacAvoy as far away from Middlesbrough to safety, only to immediately run into one of the assassins we've just seen fighting miles away. I'm not expecting the highest quality of scriptwriting here, but it was a plot contrivance that annoyed me greatly.

I will give them some credit for making what must have been a low budget go a long way, particularly in some of the action scenes. The bus/tanker chase near the end was well done (if an obvious Terminator 1 and 2 clone), and some of the kills were creative. The story is threadbare, but action set pieces appear in a common enough frequency to make it a reasonably effective low budget British actioner.


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