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The best straight-to-video futuristic action movie ever....?
Universal / 105 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: January 22, 2013
This review is brought to you by a special request from my buddy Fez. I didn’t see the first Death Race because it looked exactly like The Condemned (which is awesome, by the way), and I didn’t feel the need to see it again. But shitty sequels are kind of my forte, so I said, "What the hell?" Apparently Death Race 2 and this film were direct-to-DVD, which is another of my specialties, so how could I lose? Since I’m such a professional, I went back and watched Death Race and Death Race 2 to prepare. After watching the first two movies, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to get to Death Race 3: Inferno.
In the future, the U.S. economy has collapsed. Prisons are owned and run by private corporations for profit. On Terminal Island, the Death Race was created and shown via pay-per-view, and later the internet. The race makes the prisons boat loads of cash and if the inmates die in the process, all the better.
Our hero, Frankenstein (Luke Goss) is formerly Carl Lucas. A convicted cop killer, Lucas wears a mask to cover his disfigured face, along with his true identity. He is a four-time winner of the race. A fifth win will earn him his freedom. The problem is that Frankenstein has become the sport’s biggest star. The owners of the prison, and the show, have no plans to let him win and go free.
The man who owns the rights to death race (Ving Rhames… yeah, Ving Rhames is in it) loses his company in a hostile takeover to Niles York (Dougray Scott). York has plans to take Death Race global, earning himself even more money. Sent to South Africa for the first global Death Race, Frankenstein is reunited with his pit boss Goldberg (Danny Trejo), crew member Lists (Fred Koehler), and navigator Katrina (Tanit Phoenix) who eventually uncover who Frankenstein really is.
It doesn’t seem like the plot could be much different than the first two in the series, but there are a few surprises here. A navigator battle to the death, new cars, and new racers, including the first female driver, keep the movie fresh and don’t make the viewer feel like they’ve been here, done that. Fans of the trilogy may be sad to see Frankenstein not driving his customary Mustang, but should be excited that 14K (Robin Shou) is back in action.
I had some questions about the timelines and characters between the three movies when I started this sequel, but the film makers did a great job tying Inferno to the first two in the series (as if this story was part of the plan all along). Since this was not a theatrical release, they simply could have ignored certain points, but they had enough respect for their fans and their saga to make sure every piece fit together in this puzzle. The ending leaves open the possibility for many future stories to be told as well.
Death Race 3 is directed by Roel Reine, who also directed 2. Paul W.S. Anderson directed the first film, and produced 2 and 3 so the movie feels very similar to the first two. With the same people behind the camera, the movie views as a continuation, and not a completely different film as is sometimes the case with lower budget sequels. also give high praise to the script, as it is the funniest of the three films.
It’s better if you watch all three movies, obviously, but Death Race 3 is solid by itself. There are enough flashbacks at the beginning that one can get caught up pretty quickly. Although, I don’t know how invested in the story I would be if I had only watched this movie without watching the first two.