Thursday, 6 January 2011

Frankie Says No To A Hit Bros ...

Death Race 2

Out of the sequel starting blocks rather akin to a kindergarten kid Max Rockatansky, peddle car squealing around the school playground, and bouncing off the kerb like the prequel pretender to the crown that Death Race 2 actually is.

It's not that the film is actually that bad, rather than more of a well intentioned precursor to the Paul W.S. Anderson 2008 outing, itself a remake of the completely over the top cult movie of 1975.

Garnished with the same set dressing maximum prison facility, and replete with the very cool futuristic armour plated, multi weapon-ed and super charged cars from its predecessor this then sets the background story of how Death Race came to be.

Former British boy band singer turned actor Luke Goss stars as Carl Lucas, who is conveniently nicknamed Luke in the movie, perhaps to aid his starstruck co-stars unable to shake off the memory of Luke, the lead singer from yesteryear. Who knows what's up next for Luke, perhaps a lead in a remake of Star Wars if the force is with him !.

Fast car loving top driver and bank robber Carl Lucas is captured by the police in a job that goes badly wrong, due to the ineptitude and trigger happy sloppiness of his assigned partners in crime. Luke undertakes the job as a favour to criminal Mr. Big Markus Kane, as played by fellow Brit actor Sean Bean. When things go belly up though, and Luke is sent to prison, Kane gets jittery that his professional friend will spill the beans on him and so puts out a contract on his life.

Carl Lucas has to immediately adapt to life in the maximum security prison and attracts the attention of the female warden, a former beauty queen with a body for pleasure and a brain for business. Multi conglomerate head of the Weyland Corporation, characterised by Ving Rhames, affords the warden the run of the roost not only at his own pleasure but in cleverly allowing her pretty faced persona to be the media cover darling representation, when all the while she is the heartless proprietor of death fight matches within the prison. Satellite screened to a global audience, betting on the outcome of the matches, and paying top dollar to watch the events as they stream live from within the prison.

With the arrival of Carl Lucas she ups the anti and redresses the fist and hand weapons scenario, adding a new dimension to the games with the introduction of cars. This then is her brainchild and the dawning of what is soon known as ... Death Race !.

It takes over half the movie to get to this point and only really at this stage do proceedings pick up. Sticking to the successful format of cars, big weapons, sexy girls and convicts vying to win their freedom if they can win enough races and remain alive, Death Race 2 picks up the pace. Carnage and violence follows, the later in a more gory version available on the Unrated edition of DVD and Blu-ray.

The real purpose of Death Race 2 is to establish the inception of the titular brutal sport and to identify the birth of the iconic character of Frankenstein. For this reason and for the second half of the movie once in full on Action mode, Death Race 2 is well suited to its placement of direct to video releasing.

Luke Goss has a fair way to go if he wants to continue treading in the footsteps of the awesome Jason Statham, but he is good value for 'B' movie entertainment and displays a real desire to do his best in each role given.

There are a few well incorporated links between the original film and this its follow up 'prequel'. Actors Robin Shou and Frederick Koehler get to return and establish their characters of 14K and Lists. There is also a nice little snippet to set up the future role of lady prison warden Hennessey.

Death Race 2 may not prove to be a Frankenstein monster hit, but for ninety minutes of escapism it is worth a rental, as the sum of its parts form the body of an entertaining enough slice of Action hi jinks hokum.  

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