Movie Review: Death Race 2 (2010)

Not everyone may share the same opinion, but this reviewer immensely enjoyed Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race. It’s cinematic junk food, sure, but the big dumb fun aspect and the expert action sequences made it easy to dismiss the cold critical heart in this reviewer’s chest and forget that critics are supposed to hate exploitation films like it. Despite its disappointing performance at the box office, 2010’s Death Race 2 eventually moved forward. The title is rather misleading, however, since this is not a sequel but a prequel — it deals with the genesis of Death Race, the beginnings of the legendary Frankenstein, and why Frankenstein has to keep his identity a secret at all times. Despite being a low-budgeted direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray sequel, Death Race 2 delivers massive explosions, beautiful gals, bloody violence, exhilarating car carnage, colorful villains, and thrilling race sequences. And it’s all delivered with slick cinematic techniques and absolutely no pretensions. It would seem we’ve reached the point where direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray no longer means cheap crap.

Before Frankenstein became a legendary star of Death Race, he was Carl “Luke” Lucas (Goss); a getaway driver working for notorious crime lord Marcus Kane (Bean). Following a bank job gone awry, Carl takes the fall and decides to do the time rather than testify against Kane. He ends up on Terminal Island Penitentiary which has been acquired by the profit-seeking Weyland Corporation. In the search for another source of profit, Weyland (Rhames) and his slutty assistant September Jones (Cohan) organize a show called Death Match in which inmates fight to the death. However, the ratings begin to decline, so the ante is raised when Death Match is scrapped in favor of a new game; the more epic Death Race. The island is transformed into a racetrack to host the multiple-day pay-per-view event, in which nine drivers compete to gain their freedom. Luke joins the competition, and, in true Death Race fashion, earns himself an attractive female navigator named Katrina (Phoenix).

Working on a scant $14 million budget (less than one third of the budget of 2008’s Death Race), Dutch director Roel Reiné did a fine job of making Death Race 2 look like a far more expensive film than it is. Reiné’s directorial talents were put to great use here; he managed to craft several exhilarating races and slick action sequences throughout (as opposed to The Marine 2, in which Reiné’s competent technique was hampered by a dire script). The action is not as plentiful or as over-the-top as it was in the original movie, but this is by no means Jane Austen — there’s still ample violence and gore to satiate action lovers, and the film flies by at a terrific pace. Death Race 2 is vehemently old-school as well, with practical effects and real stunts as opposed to masses of CGI. Also worth noting is that Paul Haslinger returned to compose the accompanying score, which is a huge asset (the catchy main theme makes a welcome appearance here). While this film is not 100% on par with its predecessor, there’s still plenty to enjoy about it. The film’s dénouement even leaves room open for further sequels. Awesome.

As thrilling as the action sequences are, screenwriter Tony Giglio’s dialogue is not a strong suit, and character arcs and nuances are practically non-existent. For instance, Lucas feels guilty over killing a bank guard, but this is neglected for the remainder of the film. And sure, there are a few conveniences and narrative shortcuts as well. For instance, the transition from Death Match to Death Race is done in less than a minute with barely any introduction. The task of prepping Death Race seems like a task as simple as visiting the local shops since there are no montages or dialogue scenes to reveal the timeframe between Death Match’s end and Death Race’s beginning. Luke’s transition to Frankenstein is rather forced and truncated, too, though his actual introduction is absolutely bad-ass. Of course, none of these quarrels will affect one’s enjoyment of the movie since this merely affords a brisk pace, but some additional material would have been welcome.

While the cast of Death Race 2 is not brimming with A-listers, the majority of the actors who were assembled for the film at least exert enough genuine talent to ensure the film is not the direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray nightmare it could have been (a couple of minor characters from 2008’s Death Race even returned to reprise their roles here — Robin Shou as driver 14K, and Fred Koehler as Lists (a member of Luke’s pit crew)). Meanwhile, the main role of Carl Lucas was played by Luke Goss. Surprisingly, Goss is an affable leading man — not exactly in the same league as Jason Statham, but nonetheless assured and badass. Other notable actors appearing here include Ving Rhames and Sean Bean. Rhames is his usual awesome self, while Bean chewed the scenery with every line delivery as the villain of the film. Danny Trejo also appears, but he phoned in a strangely neutered performance (made all the more heartbreaking after 2010’s Machete). As the trademark eye candy, Lauren Cohan and Tanit Phoenix are terrific. Not that their performances are terrific, mind you — they are just delicious to look at.

Death Race 2 is probably pretty easy to criticize if you approach it with the mind of a self-absorbed film snob. But who cares? This reviewer knows a fun movie when he sees one. Death Race 2 is brimming with irresistible B-movie charm which shows that Dutch filmmaker Roel Reiné and screenwriter Tony Giglio clearly understood the appeal of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race reimagining, and possessed the creative and technical know-how to replicate it on a much smaller budget. For fans of Anderson’s remake seeking another round of awesome mayhem, Death Race 2 definitely delivers. In fact, this direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray gem easily surpasses several 2010 blockbusters which polluted theaters.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm a true blue fair dinkum Aussie larrakin from Down Under (or Australia, if you're not a fan of slang). Yep, I wrestle crocs and I throw shrimps on the barbie. Movies are my passion. I also post my reviews on Flixster, Listal and MovieFilmReview. I've been writing reviews as a hobby since 2003, and since then my technique has increased big time. I'm also studying Media at University, which helps me develop my writing skills. I am continually commended for my writing from both tutors and peers. On top of reviewing movies, I voluntarily contribute to the local newspaper in the area of music journalism. And I'm a through-and-through gym junkie. Yep, my life thus revolves around peers, studies, movies and exercise. I'm more than happy.

'Movie Review: Death Race 2 (2010)' have 12 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 3, 2011 @ 7:04 pm George Mallow

    Hey Cal Knox, glad you liked the movie. 1st thing you got wrong – the budget was $6 million. 2ndly, before you bash the screenwriter and simply praise the director… the director is the one on set, not the writer. You can’t hold him responsible if actors ad lib or the dir. changes lines. Also, you don’t leave for the possibility that these loose ends you speak of these quick transitions weren’t done by cutting story in the edit and pushing the action? Ever wonder how a STD film got such a cast? I read this script before the film was made. Glad you liked the film, but don’t assume to know what was in the script and what wasn’t.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 3, 2011 @ 9:14 pm Cal Knox

    Wikipedia listed the budget as $14 million and listed a link which corroborates this. Where’s your evidence that it was $6 million? Link please? :)

    And I’m aware that a director can alter the script while filming, or things can be cut in the editing room. Re-read my review. I only blamed the screenwriter for the lack of nuance in Luke’s character. The other quarrels are then listed but not blamed on anyone in particular because, as you said, I don’t know what was in the script. :)

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 13, 2011 @ 1:51 pm George Mallow

    If you listen to the director commentary on the DVD, he clearly states the budget was not $14million. Wikipedia is NOT reliable source. Anyone can upload anything without proof. Listen to director commentary. He gives you the budget. This film was made by Uni Home Entertainment.They make BRING IT ON, BEETHOVEN, etc. $14 million was more money than Sony spent on Easy A. The director’s next film – Scorpion King 3 – at the same studio has a $6 million budget.

    So do you still believe the $14 million budget is real?

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2011 @ 7:14 pm Cal Knox

    I just told you that Wikipedia had a link which corroborated the budget. I’m so sorry I didn’t go to all the trouble you deem necessary to research something…

    You seriously need to calm down, pal. It’s like you take my sentiments as a personal insult.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2011 @ 10:08 pm George Mallow

    The link on Wikipedia brings you to a dead page. So there is zero proof of $14 million budget.

    I am calm. The sheer ferocity you display to defend your argument however is alarming. You seriously believe the straight to video division of universal spent $14 million on a straight to DVD movie? You do realize STV films and DVD in general has been in a freefall the last few years. Your inability to accept logic makes you the one who needs to be calmed.

    In a screening in LA before the release, a screening sponsored by Fangoria, the producers, studio exec and director all said budget was $6 million.

    You want to believe Wikipedia and a link that goes nowhere instead of them?

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2011 @ 11:49 am Cal Knox

    Ferocity?! From me?! Where?! :O

    The fact you care so much about one small error in a positive review of a movie you like is alarming ;) Did you know a lot of reviewers claimed Avatar had a $500 million budget? Nobody complained about the error; at the time, it was taken as truth because Fox had not released an official figure. Even now that budget figures are official, no-one gives a shit. Why should they?

    You know, Wikipedia lists “Retrieved [date]” for a reason ;) It means that it was retrieved on a certain date. So it’s a dead link now, fine. But when it was retrieved it had the information present.

    I never said you were wrong, kiddo. However, while researching my review this was the one & only budget figure I could find. So I used it. OHNOES I MADE A BOOBOO! My bad. Sue me ;)

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2011 @ 12:05 pm George Mallow

    Listen, I took exception to the lengths at which you choose to defend the mention of the budget in your review. You don’t have to be sarcastic. You allow for people to comment on your reviews. You stated something that was factually incorrect. Instead of doing any follow-up or check your source, your response was to do nothing but try to belittle me and defend a link posted on Wikipedia.

    1) Why is budget important at all? It costs the same to rent a $2 million budgeted film as it does a $500 million film. A review should be based on the quality of the film, did you enjoy, good story, production value, characters, etc.

    2) Your one source, which every good journalist knows you need 2 sources, was Wikipedia directing you to one source. That’s not 2 sources. I could upload today that the budget for Avatar was $87,000. Wikipedia is not a reliable source. That is lazy researching. If you cared enough to mention the budget in the review, why not simply make a phone call to Universal Home Entertainment? Or listen to the Dir. Commentary. He states it several times in the first 10 minutes.

    3) I also work in the industry and know that if Universal Home Entertainment indeed spent $14 million on a STV flick – everyone in that division would be fired.

    Good luck!

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2011 @ 2:18 pm George Mallow

    All I ever did, after saying “glad you liked the film” was attempt to correct something in your review. I know this film and its makers well. Where you cite $14 million as “Speilberg’s lunch money” it is an insult to the filmmakers that actually made the film for $8 million less.

    If my words were strong in my first response, I apologize. But as a reviewer you should have thicker skin. And if you are going to be lazy and site Wikipedia as a source and pass it off as fact, then at least be ready to be called on it.

    So citing other’s mis-information justifies your mis-information? Did you previously work for the Bush administration? They, like you, probably cite the same Wikipedia source too.

    And perhaps a civil comeback would not be to attack contributors to your website. Perhaps this is why you only have 10 comments (not including DR2 or your retorts to other comments) on the 26 films you’ve reviewed.

    Good luck in the future.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2011 @ 1:54 pm Cal Knox

    D’ya know what kind of comment would’ve sufficed? Do ya? Do ya?!

    “Hey dude, you say the budget is $14 million but it was actually $6 million. It was said in the director’s commentary. Cheers. Glad you liked the movie.”

    Dunno about you, but I find that far more appropriate, calm and civil than your comments ;) Points out the error in a respectful way, states the correction, and states the source.

    And why do I mention budget? Pfft, maybe because I was impressed by what the director achieved while working with Steven Spielberg’s lunch money…? It’s a bit of a compliment towards a filmmaker and a film if the production values are so terrific despite a small budget. Sounds like a reasonable thing to raise in a critique ;P

    OHNOES! LOOK! MOAR PEOPLE SAYING THE BUDGET WAS $14 MILLION! SAY IT AIN’T SO! You better go hassle all of them as well! Spread the good word! Why stop with me?!

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2011 @ 7:19 pm Mariusz Zubrowski

    Are you serious? Don’t post The Pirate Bay as a source for information. Pirating is bad enough as is.

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2011 @ 8:09 pm General Disdain

    Don’t post The Pirate Bay as a source for information.

    Looks like it was linking to a post of information on the movie, but I deleted the link anyways . . .

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 17, 2011 @ 12:12 am Cal Knox

    LOL you say a journalist should have two sources, and I had more than two… I just showed you multiple sources which contained the budget information, you mongoloid. I just Googled “death race 2 $6 million” and found only two webpages which said that it was made for that amount, one of which was an interview with one of the actresses who said “$6 million, or whatever the budget actually is”. EVEN SHE DIDN’T KNOW FOR SURE!!

    I even told you that I used WIKIPEDIA’S SOURCE, not Wikipedia as a source ;P And that source was The Hollywood Reporter. And, well, damn, that sounds like a viable source to me :P Link may be dead now, but it was alive when I was researchin’ for the review.

    Me?! Attacking you?! Where?! :O

    You’re the one making mountains out of molehills, my laddo ;)

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