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Based on the cult 2000 Death Race film, WS Anderson’s remake is just a pale soulless copy. Emptied of all the absurd violence of his elder brother, he never manages to grasp all of its cynical and critical content.
It all starts with a cult film. Death Race 2000 – long titled Lords of the road in French-speaking countries – is one of these incredible productions of bis de Roger corman. It is about a car race on American territory, the transcontinental, where anything goes. The aim of the game ? Crush as many victims as possible under its tires. The driver then earns more or less points, depending on the age or sex of the unfortunate. And it is not forbidden to attack its competitors as well… Good mess.
A nice mess
Amoral, the 1975 film is profoundly so. Everything is free. The race has no other meaning than to amuse the plebs, who demand more and more violence, blood and death. It only makes it possible to channel, once a year, human savagery – which the modern era has visibly increased tenfold. For its competitors, it is an outlet, but also and above all a means of accessing glory, whatever the price. So, Sylvester stallone There is a young upstart, cigar on his lips, ready to do anything to dethrone Frankenstein, the glory of the circuit, played by David Carradine.
Despite its kitschy and its extremely aging visual cachet, Death Race 2000 of Paul Bartel nonetheless remains a cynical and critical film, conducted with great efficiency, as well as a lot of daring and second degree. It gladly called for a remake, because it goes without saying, its low budget makes what was acceptable when it was released, laughable and dusty in our time. Sadly, RACE TO DEATH, its 2008 remake, completely misses the point. Worse: it empties the work of Paul Bartel with all its sap and impertinence.
No more euthanasia on the runway …
Indeed, the film of WS Anderson – already guilty of adaptations of Mortal Kombat and of resident Evil – commits in the first place the outrage of finding a justification for the race. This time, it is about making the prison system profitable. The competitors are now dangerous prisoners, murderers moreover, driving for the price of their freedom. Behind all this we can detect a vague whiff of Judeo-Christian morality. As if the absurdity of a death race waged purely for the taste of blood could not be accepted by the public.
Especially since this remake chooses to bypass what its ancestor had most enjoyable: the massacres of innocent people. Forgotten, the points system! Whatever… if. We observe here and there a scoreboard, but difficult to understand what these numbers can be attached to. The disappointment is great. Because the 1975 film had knowingly relied on uninhibited black humor. For example, 100 points were awarded for the murder of a child. Through the prism of humor, Paul Bartel also dared burlesque and zany scenes, like this “day of euthanasia”, where we saw nurses lining up elderly people in wheelchairs on the road of the competitors … Too sluggish for 2008, obviously!
Instead, we get bored in front of inmate racing scenes, where we just push each other in the ass and shoot each other. It bangs, it explodes in all directions, it goes fast… It is full of ugly pixels too, so that the action becomes very difficult to read. All this for a personal revenge story. Because this time, the character of Frankenstein is not any more this type destroyed mentally and physically by the race, patched up everywhere and forced to wear a mask to camouflage his disgusting ugliness …
Rather, we prefer to redo the good old hack of the pirate Roberts, in the person of Jason statham – much less magnetic than Carradine. The guy is forced to replace incognito under his mask fire the previous Frankenstein, so that the big winner remains undefeated. And that no prison sentence should ever be lifted. One Jason statham thrown there with a skillful stunt, making him unjustly guilty of murdering his wife. Come on, so … let’s be reassured. The hero is, in reality, innocent and the losers slaughtered by ignoble criminals, who had finally sought him out. Phew! Honor is safe.
Soulless Fast & Furious Sub
Except that in wanting to police the subject too much, we lose sight of the very essence of The 2000 Death Race. Including the greed of its secondary characters, driven by their dreams of greatness or simply by their sadism. We must now justify a logical reason for their motivation: freedom. Exit also, the women pilots. In particular the blonde Nazi, who shouted: “Blitzkrieg! To each victim – as if to say that femininity is not necessarily about compassion. No. In this remake, the women are only co-pilots, automatically designated as the hero’s foil.
Hero who also loses greatly. Frankenstein’s rallying to the resistant cause is gone. There is no longer any question of scuttling the race to give back to men their part of humanity. The new Frankenstein is only there to save his skin and get his daughter back. Doing so RACE TO DEATH the beginning of a saga of sub-Fast & Furious, without the slightest ambition, more and more broke and sadly forgettable. Who knows ? Maybe a reboot one day will come to rekindle the flame. In the meantime, we just have to cry bitter tears over everything this project could have been.
• Original title : Death Race
• Realization : Paul WS Anderson
• Scenario: Paul WS Anderson, Robert Thom
• Main actors : Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Joan Allen
• Release date : October 15, 2008
• Duration : 1h45min