Blu-ray Review: Death Race

I gave Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race a “C” when I reviewed the theatrical version and I see little reason to change my grade after watching the unrated Blu-ray edition. Even though six minutes have been added to the feature I can’t say there is all that much actually “added” to the film, at least not a lot that is noticeable outside of one redundant offscreen fight scene. I won’t say this is a bad film, just an average one, and a film that will serve well as a late night diversion, but nothing you should be spending your hard earned dollar on.

Set in the future, Death Race imagines a world where the prison systems are so over run they have been absorbed for commercial gain and one of the ways of earning money is a pay-per-view race to the death in which participants “win” by becoming the last man standing as they cross the finish line. In the Blu-ray audio commentary Anderson discusses how he originally wanted to call the film Death Race 3000 and set it even further into the future than the original 1975 Paul Bartel version, but ballooning production budgets basically nixed that idea. It was supposed to look like the pod race in Star Wars: Episode I he says and feature hovering, invisible and transforming cars as they raced across the globe. Instead what we have here is a film Anderson imagined as taking place 15 years or so prior to the events in the original even though the year 2000 has come and gone. Facts don’t matter though, this is a film designed around explosions and violence and that you get.

Death Race is exactly what it set out to be and I can’t fault it for that, I can just say whether it worked for me or not. On a one time viewing it certainly works and if grisly car chases, a bit of T ‘n’ A and an occasional body splattering is what floats your boat then definitely check this one out.

The special features are rather lacking in any kind of real substance as the 20 minute making of featurette offers nothing more than you are going to get out of the picture-in-picture in the U-Control feature and the same pretty much goes for the short stunts featurette. The Tech Specs portion of the U-Control is interesting, but too clumsy when it comes to actually being useful and the My Movie Commentary allowing you to make your own video commentary isn’t a bad idea, but if people are listening to your commentary on Death Race and you weren’t directly involved in the film they seriously need more hobbies. And the “Making a Death Race” feature in which you edit together a specific scene from the film is interesting in its concept, but when it plays back it is a herky-jerky mess of a feature that is an absolute waste of your time.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of the whole thing is to hear Tyrese talk about his bigger name co-stars. He hadn’t heard of Ian McShane, but people were telling him how great he was, so Tyrese head on over to YouTube to beef up on McShane’s resume. YouTube? ReallY? As if that wasn’t comical enough he then admits he knew who Joan Allen was, but in doing so also reveals that The Notebook is one of his favorite films and that is how he knew who she was. Good stuff, Tyrese sounds like a cool guy to hang with for a laugh.

You can have fun with the Death Race Blu-ray, but for how long is the big question. I give the majority of consumers a one-time shot with this flick and no more. It isn’t worth repeat viewings and it was hardly interesting watching it a second time through. There are plenty of other mindless pieces of entertainment out there that are a lot more fun to watch than this one, so why waste any more money than is necessary by buying it instead of just adding it to your NetFlix queue?

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