Monday 3 January 2011


Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray is this prequel to Jason Statham's 2008 prison based car-racing actioner.
Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

This straight to DVD sequel to the Jason Statham hit may not feature any of the original main cast (not even Tyrese came back), but given that it's following on from a remake of a Roger Corman B-movie exploitation extravaganza, it'd be unfair to dismiss it outright. Luke Goss takes over as the lead, seemingly because he's able to deliver his lines in a gruff voice, and his bald bonce partially resembles that of Statham.

I'm not sure who saw 2008's Death Race and thought "I'd like to know more about the mythology of that", but that's what we've got here. Instead of the full on racing action of the first film, this prequel (which really should be called Death Race Zero) starts off with a televised gladiatorial combat programme called Death Match, which might as be called 'Cheaper, Dirtier version of The Running Man'. The prisoners of Terminal Island are forced into combat with one another, watched over by surrounding television cameras, and with little option but to fight or die.

When audiences start to become apathetic towards the fights, TV presenter September Jones decides to take the killer concept to the next level... Death Racing. It takes about half the film's running time before the Death Race is even established, but when it is, it doesn't take long to dive into the car racing action. It's much like the first film, racing the same treacherous track on Terminal Island, watched over by increasing numbers of pay-per-view customers. Booby traps abound, and it's up to Luke to avoid them and cross the finish line first.

Our main man is Carl 'Luke' Lucas, a confusing name for a character played by someone called Luke Goss. This time our guy is in prison for a crime he did commit, but it's his refusal to give information about his bank robbery boss Markus Kane (Sean Bean) that's seen him incarcerated at Terminal Island. Good old gruff Yorkshire man Bean decides it's better not to risk any leaks, so puts a bounty on Luke's head.

Luke Goss, although adequately muscular, is just nowhere near as charismatic a leading man as Jason Statham, and clearly fancies himself a bit too much. Goss has impressed as a supporting actor, particularly in his work with Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy 2, Blade 2), but I can't really see him headlining a movie. Luckily this role doesn't really require him to do much more than punching, flexing and holding a steering wheel, so Goss will do as the Statham stand-in.

Although it may be a direct to DVD title, this film has still managed to pull in some recognisable talent. Ving Rhames continues his Roger Corman association after Piranha 3D, playing the corporate kingpin behind it all. In what I saw as quite a ballsy move, they've named his character Mr Weyland. If you're a fan of genre films (in particular the Alien franchise), that's a name that carries certain associations that frankly, producer Paul W.S. Anderson should just stay clear of. 

It's safe to say that Rhames is wasted somewhat, and is never given any opportunity to get in on the action. Danny Trejo turns up as Luke's forever shirtless pit boss Goldberg, essentially playing the same role as Ian 'Lovejoy' McShane from the first film. Trejo's got a fairly prominent role, but also could have been used to greater effect.

It's quite a misogynistic film, with the women either being bitchy, career-orientated ice queens, or the slutty navigators whose only real job is to wear a low cut top. Luke gets a travel companion in the shape of Katrina (Tanit Phoenix), and it's a real struggle for him to keep his eyes on the road.

It's a nice little follow up to the first film, but that definitely is required viewing before you attempt to watch this prequel. At the end of the day, it's about car racing prisoners so it's not going to have the deepest of mythologies, but this film does suffer from an abrupt ending may leave you feeling short changed if you don't know the larger story arc.

For a film that was designed for the direct to DVD market, you'd have to call this a success. It may be smaller scale and with lesser known actors in the main roles, but it does deliver on its promise of action, albeit not so high octane. It would have flopped horrendously at the cinemas, but could actually gain an audience on home video. Death Race 3 has already been green lit, and as long as it remains in the DVD market, I'd welcome it. Or, bring back Statham.



  1. oh these UK reviews are so stupid and boring , get over the fact that Luke Goss was in a boy band , it was so long ago, just leave your personal feelings for Luke Goss out of the a movie review it's just not relevant
    DR2 is a great movie it is what it is if you liked DR you will love DR2

  2. Hmmm, that's a weird comment. I didn't even mention Luke Goss's boy band past, as it isn't at all relevant to his work as an actor. I did bring up the fact that he's so far been a (quite successful) supporting actor, and you've got to be honest, that's clearly where his strengths lie.

    I've got to at least look at the performance of its leading man, and it's clear that Goss is a major step down from Jason Statham. I'm getting the sense you disagree with my rating for the film, but I think 3 stars is all this film was aiming for. As for being situated in the UK, I can't see how that is at all relevant. It's the same movie in every country.

    It's a perfectly acceptable B-Movie. Certainly nothing more, but nothing less.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback.