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Movie Review

Death Race a.k.a. “Death Race 3000”

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language.

Reviewed by: David Simpson
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Thriller, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Length:
1 hr. 19 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
August 22, 2008 (2,400 theaters)
Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures Copyright, Univeral Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Univeral Pictures

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

Featuring: Jason Statham
Crank,” “The Transporter,” “The Transporter 2,” “The Bank Job

Tyrese Gibson
Transformers

Joan Allen
The Bourne Ultimatum

Ian McShane, Robin Shou, Natalie Martinez, Janaya Stephens, Nathalie Girard, Jacob Vargas, Max Ryan, Frederick Koehler, Robert LaSardo, Sharlene Royer, Ruth Chiang, Melantha Blackthorne, Marie France Denoncourt, Jason Clarke, Alan D. Purwin, Benz Antoine, Carolyn Day, Marcello Bezina, Lydie Bounay, John Canoe, Justin Mader
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
AVP: Alien vs. Predator,” “Resident Evil
Producer: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Roger Corman, Tom Cruise, Dennis E. Jones, Paula Wagner
Distributor: Univeral Pictures

“Get ready for a killer ride.”

Many movies can be easy to judge from their titles. Examples such as Sin City, and Sex and the City, give you an idea of what the movie will contain. Death Race is one of those movies. The story is based around Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), an obviously battle-hardened character, but with a soft side towards his family. With the world having fallen apart after an American economy collapse, Ames is left with nothing except his family after he is made redundant. But when he is framed at a murder scene, he arrives at Terminal Island Penitentiary, and singled out to take the role of Frankenstein, a famed, but unidentified Death Race driver, who had been idolized by his fans after winning four races. He realizes that he now has to kill his opponents on the track to stay alive, and keep his blood thirsty fans satisfied, Ames sets about his goal, with vengeance and his freedom always in mind.

As a thrill ride, this movie succeeds outright, but one must ask yourself what you will do to give yourself one. This is an R-rated film and deserves nothing else. With 35+ uses of the F-word, 15+ uses of the S-word and frequent usage of a--, d—m, b—ch, b—tard counts the profanity count up above 100. The Lord’s name is taken in vain multiple times in different ways. The Bible does say not to set unclean things before yourself and that your body is the temple of God. No matter how thrilling the movie was in its action content, and how much my heart wanted Ames to win, I couldn’t help but feel afterwards that I was glorifying and supporting a character whose morals were of no difference to many of the other inmates. Ames had little problem with taking the mantle of Frankenstein once he realised he would be locked away for life if he refused.

Along with the language comes the real content. This movie IS, as I stated, called Death Race, and it is about a race where the drivers are called upon to kill the opposition in any way possible. These races are designed to entertain online subscribers who can watch “as it happens”. The deaths involve men getting run over by armor-plated cars, mowed down with machine guns, blown up with napalm, slowly crushed by a machine, and having the bodies ripped up through various gruesome crashes. I found the deaths disturbing for a number of reasons. 1) They are drawn out due to the fact that they are done for entertainment. 2) The methods they die are gruesome, and inhumane (one man trapped in his vehicle is slowly crushed). 3) Despite the fact that these men were criminals of the worst sort, it was human life just being thrown down the rubbish chute. I made a promise to myself after watching this, that I would never take a girl, or allow a girl to see this movie if I had that control. It is disturbing and graphic and unsuitable for anyone under the age of 18 (and this is based on movie ratings).

The sexual content is fairly low-key for an R-rated Hollywood production. There are references and jokes made about homosexual activities, as well as sexual gestures towards women. The female characters, including prison boss Henessey (Joan Allen), are looked upon as sexual objects by all male inmates and guards. Several comments are made concerning imaginary sex and others made about inmates that have had sex crimes sentences. However, it was all enough to make me feel extremely uncomfortable in these scenes. This is part of the reason I would not want girls to see this film.

Now, to the things we can draw out of this action-packed, violence full, race of death thrill ride! Ames is a hard, tough-as-nails, buff British guy that will kill for revenge at a moments notice. He is violent, short-tempered and reckless. However, he has a softer side that only gets shown at infrequent moments. Early on, you can see his obvious affection and loyalty to his wife and also to his baby girl. From then, until the last few scenes, this softer side takes a back seat, as he focuses on the racing. At the end, you see what the man underneath the mask is like. His love and devotion to his child, and his yearning to live like a man should. I felt that they could have made more of this softer side of Jensen Ames and made it a more satisfying character. He could be someone you could really admire, kind of like Jason Bourne (The Bourne Trilogy).

In conclusion, I would tell anyone, male or female, young or old, Christian or non-Christian, NOT to spend the money and go watch it. What are we willing to sit through to gain an action buzz? Are we willing to glorify death and treat it as entertainment as the characters in the movie? As Christians, should we not look to better sources of entertainment, since our God is a God of light and life, NOT a God of destruction and death.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Finally! A movie with Jason Statham that isn’t a campy, B-grade action menagerie. Seriously! I think Statham is the man. The next Chuch Norris. The next Arnie. He’s got talent 'cause he’s an innate b.a. Trained in martial arts, built like a black and decker, and mysterious looking and sounding. I’ve often touted his middle name is ACTION. Well, this movie is golden because finally there’s a film that encapsulates his b.a.-ness without veering off into the deep end. Yep. I always knew he’s awesome, just not some of his movies. Bad scripting isn’t his fault. A paycheck’s a paycheck at the end of the day.

The action is just perfect. Not excessive. Not cheesy. Not too overdone. The effects are used convincingly enough to convey the motion. One of my beefs with one of his films (Crank) is that it starts off strong and then quickly diffuses, nay careens off into absurdity. I watched “Death Race” with baited breath, always fearing the plot was gonna jump-the-shark. It never happened. In fact, the ending is superbly constructed and even goes so far to include a good parenting motif.

The violence is actually not as extreme as I thought it would be. Most of the stuff is shown offscreen, with the effects/aftermath shown onscreen.
Language is another story. There are a few instances of misusing the Lord’s name, and there are several f-words and its derivatives. Milder curse words such as d*** and s*** are scattered throughout. Honestly, for an R film in this day and age, even with the violence, I think Death Race is a lot tamer than most.

There’s humor. Yes. Humor. It’s well-played too, never forced, never cheesy. Just smattered here and there with style and ease. Most of the “ha ha” material comes from the character known as “Coach,” the lead mechanic of Statham’s pit crew. Ian McShane is this “Coach” and his edgy persona is the reason for much of the film’s comic material. McShane has starred in a number of recent films, notably as Rod Kimble’s step-father Frank in Hot Rod, the bitter dad from We Are Marshall, and lastly my favorite, as the vicious Tai Lung from Kung Fu Panda.

A few of the plot details you’ll be able to guess, and others you won’t, giving “Death Race” a roughly even score on originality.

“Death Race” is without a doubt escapist entertainment. Fun. A guy flick.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jacob Keenum, age 22
Negative
Negative—I’ve been asked to look at this movie by friends. I was in shock a few times with the violence. There were scenes hard to watch. I personally like films made by Jason Statham, like “The Transporter,” but not impressed by this one. I like this actor, when there is some martial arts scenes. This movie, any actor could have done it. There was more hatred then anything else. I don’t suggest watching this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—David, age 34 (Canada)
Movie Critics
…a movie that knows exactly what it is and then whacks that knowledge home like a rusty pipe in the face. …ultraviolence. …
—Nathan Lee, The New York Times
…It is an assault on all the senses, including common. Walking out, I had the impression I had just seen the video game and was still waiting for the movie. …
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…a deranged and violent movie… a nominal remake of 1975’s ‘Death Race 2000’… if you like things that go boom-boom, vroom-vroom and va-voom, you’ll be in testosterone heaven. …
—Chris Knight, National Post
…plenty of destruction, mutilation and mayhem. … spectacular crashes. Serviceable storytelling and dialogue that won’t make you cover your eyes and shake your head are pleasant surprises.
—Stanley A. Miller II, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
…trash… ‘Death Race’ crashes, burns… although ‘Death Race’ delivers more than enough blood and bone-crunching fight scenes, the film boasts some of the most laughable dialogue you are likely to hear. …
—James Verniere, Boston Herald