Sunday, April 14, 2013

Completist Guide to the Death Race series (1975-2013) part 2

Death Race 3: Inferno (2013)

I've got to say I tend not to buy films as soon as they come out on DVD. I'm usually perfectly happy to wait a year or so until the price comes right down but with Death Race 3 I was so desperate to see it I bought it straight away. The previous installment was shockingly good for a DTV flick and I was intrigued with how the film would continue the story of Carl Lucas (Luke Goss). Death Race 2 ended with him getting horribly scarred in a car accident and having to don the Frankenstein mask. I, like most viewers I think, assumed that he would become the same Frankenstein who dies at the start of the Jason Statham remake but it turns out that actually that may not be the case.

Death Race 3 begins a few months after the last film. Lucas has continued to race under the guise of Frankenstein and is close to winning his fifth and final race (which also wins him his freedom). It turns out that after the last film his wounds got heavily infected so Mr Weyland (Ving Rhames), the owner of the Death Race, paid for him to have extensive facial reconstructive surgery so that he could keep racing. Just before the fifth race begins an evil billionnaire called Niles York (Dougray Scott) swoops in and buys the rights to Death Race with a view to franchising it around the world. He takes Lucas and his pit crew and sets up an all new three day race in the Kalahari desert. Will Lucas manage to win his freedom in this new race or will York see to it he doesn't cross the finish line?

First things first, I was kind of disappointed early on that they retconned Lucas' face. Sure, it was clear from the fact that Luke Goss' unblemished face was right there on the front cover of the DVD that he was somehow going to be fine but I was still kind of bummed that they took such an easy route. It would have been way more interesting to have kept him scarred. I did like the fact that they changed up the setting though and made it closer to how the original 1975 film was. I don't think the series could have survived with another race around that dark and grimy Terminal Island prison track. 

The writer Tony Giglio included some nice little nods to the 1975 original. For instance one of the drivers was called Nero and there's a few scenes with people showing up to protest the Death Race. The desert set races were mostly well filmed (by returning director Roel Reine) but it was tough at times to follow where all the cars were and who was still in the running. Whereas the previous films had only 5 racers this film had 11 which meant that there was loads more vehicular destruction but also meant that the drivers themselves were very forgettable and anonymous. I couldn't name any of them apart of Robin Shou's 14K and that was only because he was in the two previous installments.

The film also includes some new features such as Navigator Wars in which all the female Navigators fight to the death with various weapons in a cage. I thought it was a nice idea but way too similar to the 'Death Match' from the previous film. It seemed more like it was added to the film to pad out the running time. That was my major issue with the film. There just wasn't a whole lot of story left to tell and as a result the story felt very, very thin.

Danny Trejo, Tanit Phoenix and Frederick Koehler return as Frankenstein's pit crew which gave the film a good sense of continuity. I felt the performances of all three were a little low key though but maybe that was down to the script they were working with. The problem was that there was nothing new to learn about any of these characters and the script was more interested getting everything in place for the Staham flick. The actor who seems to be having the most fun is Dougray Scott who dusts off his Mission Impossible II bad-guy routine to reasonable effect.

Overall Death Race 3 isn't too bad a film. I've given it a hard time in this review but as far as DTV movies go it's still way above average. I've enjoyed all three of the films in the series and this is one nicely ties them all together (even if it is a little heavy handed and over explained at the end). I don't think there's a need for any more installments but I hope to see more from both Roel Reine and Luke Goss in the future. And I'd also like to see more DTV franchises aim as high as this film and its predecessor did.



  1. Great review. Haven't seen the sequels yet, but will definitely watch them soon.

  2. Definitely check them out if you get a chance Ty.