Death Race | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Death Race

Armored cars race through plot holes in a junky prisoner actioner

This prisoners-race-cars-to-their-deaths actioner from Paul W.S. Anderson is a loose update of the 1975 drive-in classic Death Race 2000 (which added anarchic dark humor and hapless pedestrians to the mix). Now it's the year 2012, and in the hard gray light of cinematic dystopia, we follow our anti-hero, Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), as he's framed, sent to prison and then bribed to race a souped-up Mustang for Team Good Guys (relatively speaking). A pair of decent actors -- Ian McShane, as Ames' crew chief, and Joan Allen, as the hard-bitch warden -- lend a teeny bit of heft (though the presence of high-brow Allen is a real head-scratcher); Anderson wisely gives these two the best lines. For those less concerned with dramatic skills, Death Race offers the well-built Statham and Tyrese Gibson, both of whom do a lot of bare-chested flexing; heavily armored cars in a race-slash-demo-derby; explosions and wrecks galore; grisly head-poppin' deaths; and large-breasted women walking in slow motion. For maximum enjoyment, all are advised to disregard plot holes, and to blindly accept the story's premise that suggests that in just four short years, our penal system will be in the pay-per-view, snuff-entertainment business. Unlike, say, this facsimile version of nonstop thrill-killing we've paid for. (AH)