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Universal / 100 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: January 18, 2011
Movies like Death Race 2 make John Carpenter's early work look like scripture. This gritty, loud, dumb-as-a-box-of-hair greased-metal carnage-fest absolutely hearkens back to pictures like Escape From New York, but this walk down memory lane makes the act of stomaching the sequel to the remake of a Roger Corman actioner (that sucked to begin with) a real drag.
Carpenter really invested a dramatic hubris into his fleeting, often low-rent early affairs - even though his films' pulpy, low-to-the-ground sensibilities served their genre roots well, there's something there, an element of filmmaking virtue that buoys even the director's most aesthetically questionable movies and liberates them from being grade-Z trash.
Speaking of grade-Z trash, Death Race 2 is about a jailed getaway driver (Luke Goss) who is recruited to compete in a prison program called Death Match that eventually evolves into a full-tilt Death Race that pits Goss and his pit crew against other unsavory rejects from society. There are corrupt TV executives (Ving Rhames), tough-but-sensitive crew leaders (Danny Trejo) and surprisingly busty producers (Lauren Cohan) to mention, and somewhere in there is a plot, but I'll be damned if I can discern it.
The blank, flatline appeal of Death Race 2 rests in viewers who sometimes love a nice brainless romp at the end of a long work day (it goes without saying that this writer falls into that paradigm more often than not), and in that regard, there are more ridiculous ways to throw two hours in the crapper than to stomach through this picture. I can't imagine that many viewers will emerge from it with any kind of earnest positive accolade, but again, for a movie like this one, "Eh, it sucked, but I've seen worse" is a huge compliment.