a critiQal film review Death Race 2 (2011)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Getaway driver Luke (Goss) kills a cop during a bank robbery, and is sentenced to life in prison on Terminal Island. Once there, his skills behind the wheel come in quite handy as the prison kicks off it's first ever Death Race.

Reviewed
461 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 18s)

After Death Race (2008) turned out to be a far better remake than most were expecting, it was inevitable that Hollywood would cash in on that success and churn out a sequel. When that sequel went straight to home video, however, that gave me pause, since that usually means it wasn’t good enough for theaters.

Still, now that Death Race 2 and another sequel, Death Race: Inferno (2013) are available for instant viewing on NetFlix®, I figured I might as well check out these (most likely) inferior sequels and see how they really stacked up against the remake, Death Race (2008).

The first attempt at a sequel, Death Race 2, is actually a prequel, more of a “Frankenstein” character background story. That was a good idea by the filmmakers, as it allowed them to pull in many of the same decent secondary characters (Danny Trejo, Robin Shou, etc.) while coming up with a reason why they couldn’t get big star Jason Statham back for the sequel – his character isn’t actually in the film. Not bad.

Surprisingly, they did manage to pull in a few other recognizable names for this straight-to-video prequel, including Sean Bean and Ving Rhames – a major plus for the filmmakers. Unfortunately, the lead this time around, Statham’s predecessor, is Luke Goss, who doesn’t hold a candle to Statham’s gritty action anti-hero type of Death Race (2008). Sadly, since Death Race 2 quickly becomes a copycat of the first film, that doesn’t bode well for Goss.

Although the film starts out a bit differently – prisoners are being pitted against each other in a Roman-inspired “Death Match” and Goss’ anti-hero finds his way into the prison system on his own (without any sort of sly unjustly-accused scenario), the film quickly copies the formula of the first, once the “Death Match” ratings fall and cause the prison management to institute “Death Race” in it’s place.

After the explosive action from the first film, viewers might be expecting even better in this second film, but, unfortunately, may have instead discovered why this film went straight to video. Instead of things trying to top the impressive truck o’ doom from the first film, viewers are treated to simply more of the same humdrum effects from the original, as the film cookie-cutter’s it’s way along.

Without the fun of seeing a unjustly accused anti-hero (played so well by Statham) and without much of the banter and some obviously cut sequences, Death Race 2 will make viewers feel like they are re-watching Death Race (2008) – minus the better action sequences (like the afore-mentioned truck o’ doom) and no quip-filled anti-hero to root for.

In other words, Death Race 2 is sadly inferior to Death Race (2008), despite some familiar faces. Let’s hope they are able to improve with the third film, Death Race: Inferno (2013).

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