Monday, March 27, 2017

The Fast & the Fabulous

In 2008, Paul Not the One That Directed Boogie Nights W. Anderson "remade" 1973's Death Race with Jason Statham's torso, which apparently got a sequel that nobody ever heard of two years later called Death Race 2.

But we're not here to talk about that.

In 2017, it would seem, the House that Roger Corman Built went back to the well for another remake closer in tone to the original and pleasantly far from the movie that I once described as "a video game for people with arthritis."

Although it does have ample Jason Statham torso

Quick Plot: It's the year 2050 and the United States of America is...different. Or maybe it's just exactly what it will be like in 33 years. 

Actually, that can't be the case, because science has been allowed to progress far enough that cancer has been eradicated. The downside? People are living longer, leading to overpopulation in a dying economy.

President Tru--

eh, excuse me, "the Chairman", aka Malcolm McDowell done up in the most glorious futurized  dead-bird-toupee we've seen since, well, the latest presidential (er, I mean presidented) news conference.

So. The Chairman, played in juicy full-teethed glory by the always game McDowell, runs the country like a busy arcade that just discovered virtual reality. In order to help reduce the masses, an annual death race is held across the country. Like the 1975 original, the best way to rack up points is to kill pedestrians along the way.

Our contestants are, quite literally, a colorful bunch. Roll call:

Jed Perfectus, a genetically engineered superhuman specifically designed to win the death race, although one has to imagine the scientists were a little distracted by crafting their version of Alan Tudyk playing Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show

A.B.E., a robot car designed to show that technology is all you need (until he experiences his own form of an existential crisis)

Tammy the Terrorist (YellowBrickRoad's Anessa Ramsay), a southern blond psychopath who has created her own form of a cult that, not surprisingly, does well in the red states

Minerva Jefferson, an enthusiastic black rapper with a mission of her own

and of course, Frankenstein, the seasoned masked champion. In this iteration, Frankenstein is played by Manu Bennett, formerly Crixus (or as I liked to call him, Studdicus) from Starz's delightful, highly underrated Spartacus series.

Extreme operatic violence ensues, all with a biting wink and Idiocracy flavor you expect from a film that encourages the murder of children and the elderly. As the race takes us across the America of the future, the film gives us a mix of obvious jokes, massive CGI decapitations, sly political commentary, and even a pair of TV personalities shamelessly mirroring Effie Trinket and my REAL favorite Hunger Games character, Stanley Tucci's Caesar.

It's a good, cheesy, violent, and gloriously stupid time if there ever was one.

High Points
Much like the first Death Race, this one's most interesting characters are its women, particularly Ramsay's Trumpette-From-Hell messiah and Folake Olowofoyeku's layered gangsta rapper with a conscience

Low Points
As much as I loved Minerva's hit single "Drive Drive (Kill Kill) Drive Kill", the fact that I haven't been able to get it out of my head for a week has been a tad inconvenient for daily life

Lessons Learned
Math is for heathens and nerds

Turning global famine into clickbait is harder than you think

Winter was just a myth

Maybe I was just in the perfect mood, but I enjoyed the hell out of Death Race 2050. Watching politically relevant movies these past few months has generally been a sad, troubling experience, but this one pairs the timely analogy with such gleefully over the top vengeance that it hit me in just the right spot. It's on Netflix Instant and so long as you're in the right mind space, its' quite a ride. 


  1. Damn straight, as the Village Voice's Melissa Anderson put it, Death Race 2050 is the only film that matters in 2017.