"Death Race" may not have been a great film by any means but it had a lot of charm to it. It had Statham. It had high budget car wrecks. It had Paul W.S. Anderson directing. Unfortunately, "Death Race 2" has none of that. Luke Goss (who some may not recognize from his role as the villain in "Hellboy 2") does his damnedest to make this film work, but the fact of the matter is this: it just doesn't have the charming talent behind it that made the first one work.
Carl Lucas (Goss) works as a driver for a crime king pin Kane (Bean). When a bank robbery goes bad and he accidentally kills a cop, Lucas is sent to prison for life. At this prison he learns of a media out let that films and records inmates fighting each other. It doesn't take long for the media mongol (Rhames) to figure out a better way to pull ratings. Make the prisoners race in armored and armed vehicles. With the help of a Mexican Jew (oh yes you read that right, played by Trejo) and his friend Lists (Koehler), Lucas may just create a new legacy in prison. As the faceless driver Frankenstein.
If you couldn't tell from the synopsis, "Death Race 2" is actually a prequel. Yes. As if this film couldn't piss me off enough, its a prequel in disguise. So the title is misleading and poorly constructed. RIGHT OFF THE BAT I ALREADY DISLIKE THIS MOVIE.
Of course, we then actually move onto the film. The film's story was created by Paul W(hat the) S(hit) Anderson (although written by someone else), which means that the dialogue is horrible enough to punch your ear drums out of your head and it runs the gauntlet of hitting every bad sequel cliche out there. Semi-heroic anti hero lead? Mob connections? Racist prison cliches? All here. Once again, Anderson seems to crash on the story without the charm of his directing even though Reine does his best with what he has. Pass.
After the initial capture of our lead, the film seems to go straight into carbon copy territory. Replace some of the races with hand to hand (and a flame thrower) fighting and its the same damn movie on its foundations. Little changes here and there, but essentially its the same movie. At least it feels that way. Even adding in cult favorites Trejo (whose given some awful lines), Rhames (who just saunters around with a cigar in his mouth for the film), and Bean (who looks worn and has a shitty scene where he throws a TV) couldn't save this film.
Yeah, it still has some fun (and outrageous) moments with the race and the fight sequences. It's nice to see Liu Kang...err...Robin Shou have a larger role, but still the film just falls apart under scrutiny. As a bad sequel it succeeds in being completely ignorant of its pitfalls, but with the right mentality one might get a kick from it. Otherwise, its merely a cheap rental.
Written By Matt Reifschneider