Thursday, February 7, 2013

Death Race 3: Inferno (2012)

When you think about it, the "Death Race" franchise should be considered genre sacrilege. Whereas the original "Death Race 2000" was a brilliant bit of political satire that just happened to be a Roger Corman production, Paul W.S. Anderson's remake eschewed the satire (but still had a fair bit of social commentary) for over the top thrills. However, it managed to be a shockingly fun guilty pleasure. Sure, it was nowhere near as good as the original, but as a low calorie piece of action junk food that starred Jason Statham, it was better than it had any right to be.

Then we get to the sequel that doubled as a prequel, where we learned about Carl Lucas (Luke "I'm pretty much the poor man's Jason Statham" Goss) and how he became the notorious Frankenstein. To be honest, I wasn't impressed. Sure, it had some fun action and character actors like Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames and Sean Bean, but it suffered from a poor lead actor that played a character who wasn't all that sympathetic.

Am I Jason Statham yet?

Taking place after the events of the second film, "Death Race 3: Inferno" sees the game is now being run by scummy tycoon Niles York (Dougray Scott), who has moved Death Race to South Africa, and what do ya know, Carl's one game away from freedom. Teaming back up with Goldberg (Trejo), Katrina (Tanit Phoenix) and Lists (Fred Koehler), Carl and 10 other fugitives are about to run rampant across the African landscape, with plenty of explosions, mayhem and death on the way. However, York has other plans...

When you get down to it, "Death Race 3" is what some would call a "critic proof" movies. I like to call them "fan fiction" movies, in the fact that they feel like they were written by a small group of caffeine addled fan fiction writers who were paid to write an original script. Movies like "Legion" and the "Resident Evil" and "Underworld" franchises fall into this world. However, this one actually isn't that bad as far as guilty pleasures go.

Part of the reason the movie succeeds is the fact that it seems to embrace what it is more than the prior movie did. This is a dumb as a rock film that throws in gladiatorial fights amongst scantily clad women, slow motion car wrecks and unapologetic spots of female nudity and gore with pure abandon, and it actually does it in a shockingly competent manner. It also helps that Carl Lucas is less annoying this time. Sure, Luke Goss isn't what I'd call a good actor, but the character is a bit more straightforward this time, and doesn't stop to whine about his conditions like he did in the prior films. Fortunately, the rest of the cast is a lot of fun, especially Trejo and Scott. Danny seems to be having a lot of fun here, and Dougray is actually pretty good as a ruthless tyrant who manages to be more heartless than prior villain Weyland (Rhames, who does have a small role here.)

 It's a living.

As whole, "Death Race 3" is pretty much another straight-to-video sequel. Fortunately, it's not bad in that regard, and as a "Saturday afternoon with nothing to do" viewing is concerned, makes for a decent enough time waster.

Rating: 6/10

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