Blu-Ray Review: ‘Death Race’ Movie Loses, Blu-Ray Wins

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CHICAGO – The Blu-Ray release of “Death Race” with Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson tests the critical concept of reviewing the movie itself or purely its home presentation.

“Death Race” is easily one of my least favorite movies of 2008, an absolute train wreck of an action film that solidifies Paul W.S. Anderson’s standing as a cinematic criminal, but the Blu-Ray presentation of the disaster is nearly flawless.

I can’t possibly recommend a single thing about the film to anyone who hasn’t seen it, but if you’re somehow a fan of the Jason Statham bloodbath then you will be thoroughly satisfied by how well Universal has treated you with their presentation of “Death Race”.

Death Race was released by Universal Home Video on December 23rd, 2008.

“Death Race” is a loud, ridiculous, annoying movie that is more abusive than entertaining. The set-up is so inherently stupid that one would expect Anderson, the same man who gave the world “Mortal Kombat” and “Resident Evil” and set the bar incredibly low for video-game-to-screen adaptations, to turn “Death Race” into a tongue-in-cheek thrill ride. But he honestly believes that this mess is an action commentary on our current desire for bloodlust in entertainment.

Death Race was released by Universal Home Video on December 23rd, 2008.

The set-up for “Death Race” is that the country is plunged into chaos in only a little over three years and to distract the depressed masses and lower prison populations the most infamous jail in the world starts the Death Race.

Led by Warden Hennessey (a shockingly mis-cast Joan Allen), the Death Race makes millions off its most popular character, Frankenstein. If he gets one more victory, he’ll be set free. Small problem - Frank was killed by Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson) in the last race and the Warden needs a new masked man. Enter Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), a man who the Warden frames just to get behind the wheel.

To call “Death Race” brutal would be an understatement. Anderson believes that the volume should be as loud as possible, sound effects need to be damaging, and every shot is better if it’s herky-jerky and nauseating. There’s honestly not one single, truly well-made action scene in the film.

And the dialogue? Allen, an Oscar-nominated actress, says “F*ck with me and we’ll see who sh*ts on the sidewalk.” The sad thing is that if there were more hilariously over-the-top lines like that than the film might have been more effective as B-movie fun instead of just morally corrupt torture.

Death Race was released by Universal Home Video on December 23rd, 2008.

“Death Race” is presented in 1080p high-definition widescreen with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and accompanied by an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that suits the film perfectly. Nothing Anderson has ever done has been subtle. His motto might be “turn it up” and that fits perfectly with the clarity of Blu-Ray audio.

My feelings on the film itself are crystal clear, but there’s no fault to be found with how well Universal has treated fans of “Death Race”.

First, the interactivity on the Blu-Ray release is remarkable. Fans can chat with buddies while they watch the movie (ten bucks says most of that chat is about how hot Natalie Martinez is) and even record their own movie commentary to share. Just what we needed - fan-driven audio commentaries. Honestly, most viewers could probably improve on the dialogue in “Death Race”.

“My Movie Commentary” and “My Chat” would be impressive enough, but they’re just the beginning of the “Death Race” experience. With the great U-Control, fans can watch picture-in-picture, scene-related featurettes and interviews as the movie plays and even access “Tech Specs,” which provide all the details on the characters, cars, and races as they’re going on in the film.

RELATED READING
StarAdam Fendelman’s Theatrical Review of ‘Death Race’

“Death Race” includes two Hi-Def featurettes - “Start Your Engines: Making a Death Race” and “Behind the Wheel: Dissecting the Stunts” - and a commentary from Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt on the unrated version, which runs six minutes longer than the theatrical one.

Six more minutes of “Death Race” sounds like a threat to me, but fans won’t possibly be dissatisfied with one of the more thorough Blu-Ray releases of the season.

‘Death Race’ is released by Universal Home Video and stars Jason Statham, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Joan Allen, and Natalie Martinez, and was written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. It was released on December 23rd, 2008.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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