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The producers of DEATH RACE ($40) were definitely on the right track by adding some "A" List actors and "A" production values to their remake of the 1975 film DEATH RACE 2000, because out popped a one heck of a killer "B" movie. DEATH RACE is a takes no prisoners, makes no apologies type of action movie that is scripted as deeply as a cheap comic book, offering only enough story to propel it from one action sequence to the next. Great cinema it ainítÖ but I had as much fun watching this mindless nonsense, as the actors obviously had making it.

Set in the not too distant future, the premise of DEATH RACE finds that the United States economy has totally tanked, unemployment is rampant, there isnít money to pay for basic services, and as a result, private corporations have taken over the running of U.S. prisonsÖ for profit. One such facility is the Terminal Island Prison, which broadcasts the popular pay site Death Race on the Internet. Death Race is the gladiatorial equivalent of NASCAR, in which convicted felons fight to the death in heavily armored and even more heavily weaponed racecars, where the object is to survive all the way to the finish line.

DEATH RACE stars Jason Statham as Jensen Ames, a former racecar driver, who finds himself framed for his wifeís murder, and sent to Terminal Island Prison. Joan Allen is Hennessey, the Prisonís sadistic Warden, who coerces Ames into assuming the mantle of recently deceased Frankenstein, the highly popular Death Race driver, who wears a mask to hide a face severely disfigured in the course of this blood sport. Ian McShane portrays Coach, who heads up Frankensteinís pit crew, while Natalie Martinez is Case, a hot female inmate from the womenís prison, who serves as Frankensteinís navigator. Finally, Tyrese Gibson is Machine Gun Joe, who has a serious rivalry with Frankenstein, and has a tendency to go through navigators rather quickly. The cast of DEATH RACE also includes Max Ryan, Jacob Vargas, Jason Clarke, Frederick Koehler, Justin Mader, Robert LaSardo, Robin Shou, Benz Antoine, Danny Blanco, Christian Paul and Janaya Stephens.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made DEATH RACE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is nothing short of superb. Everything appears wonderfully sharp, finely detailed and highly dimensional. Textures, individual hairs and even the lines in the actorsí faces are all cleanly visible. The color scheme favors a desaturated palette, with a slight skewing of some of the hues, but it works in conveying the grim dismal prison environments. Blacks are pitch perfect and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are pretty much first rate. The elements from which DEATH RACE has been mastered are virtually perfect. Grain is noticeable, and adds a nice gritty quality to the proceedings, but it is never excessive.

DEATH RACE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sound design is everything one should expect from this type of movie- the mix is highly aggressive, big loud and raucous. Sound effects race, careen and explode all around the soundstage, with all of the outlying channels being exceedingly well utilized. Fidelity is very strong, producing intense sound effects. The bass channel track adds plenty of percussion to the gunfire and explosions, not to mention a nice bit of rumble. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. French and Spanish DTS 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. Universal's U-Control interface is utilized for an interactive version of the movie that provides in context picture-in-picture, pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Create Your Own Race is an interactive feature that offers the viewers the opportunity to edit together their own race from available footage. Featurettes include Start Your Engines: Making A Death Race (twenty minutes) and Behind The Wheel: Dissecting The Stunts (eight minutes). A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

If you enjoy mindless action and plenty of carnage, then DEATH RACE is your kind of movie. The Blu-ray release delivers excellent visuals and plenty of noise to back it up. Recommended to connoisseurs of fine, exploitative, action movie trash everywhere.



Death Race [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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