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Review: Death Race

Death Race

Death Race ends the summer off with a bang.

Loosely based on the 1975 movie Death Race 2000, this not quite a remake-not quite a prequel-not quite a re-imagining of Death Race directed by Paul W. S. Anderson is set in a grimy near future where private prisons offer gladiatorial-like entertainment to bloodthirsty online audiences. Terminal Island warden Hennessy (Joan Allen) makes a killing through the lucrative webcasting of Death Race, a Nascar-to-the death competition featuring imprisoned drivers willing to kill themselves or others in a bid to win their freedom.

Hennessy’s cash cow is threatened, however, when her star driver, the masked Frankenstein, dies from injuries suffered in a crash. Enter Jensen Ames (Statham), a former race car champ and ex-con now falsely imprisoned for the murder of his wife. Hennessy offers Ames a chance to win his freedom (and reunite with his baby daughter) if he secretly assumes Frankenstein’s mantle. Without Frankenstein, the ratings and profits for Death Race would suffer.

Assisted by pit crew mechanic Coach (Ian McShane) and sexy navigator Case (newcomer Natalie Martinez) — scantily clad female convicts are bussed in to help boost ratings — Ames reluctantly assumes the identity of Frankenstein, risking life and limb on Hennessy’s speedway against other imprisoned drivers, including the scar-faced and remorseless Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson), 14K (Mortal Kombat’s Robin Shou), and Pachenko (LXG’s Max Ryan).

Armed with a tricked-out Mustang and nerves of steel, the desperate Ames must endure a three-day contest on Hennessy’s prison race track. The course is riddled with booby traps, the odds can be changed on a whim by Hennessy, and no one can truly be trusted, but none of this will keep Jensen Ames, a.k.a. Frankenstein, from doing what he must in order to escape this hellhole.

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