Company: Moonlighting Films
Runtime: 101 mins
Plot: Death Race 2 explores the origins of the first "Frankenstein" car driver, Carl "Luke" Lucas. After discovering there’s a price on his head for crimes he's committed, his only hope is to survive the dangerous new sport of Death Race against an army of hardened criminals and tricked out cars.
Review: I realize I'm doing this a bit backwards. I’ve already given my review of Death Race 3 a few months ago but I wasn’t reviewing for The B-Movie Shelf when Death Race 2 initially came out. Anyway, many of you probably by now know that Death Race is one of my favorite Paul W.S. Anderson movies (along with his Resident Evil series), so when this direct-to-video sequel came out back in January of 2011, it was only natural that I was going to pick this up as a Day 1 BluRay purchase. Now, I love action movies, whether there’s a good story to it or not - as long as I’m entertained by its action scenes and characters and whatnot, then it’s done its job as far as I’m concerned. In this regard I loved the first Death Race film, and the entire trilogy as a whole, so how does Death Race 2 stack up upon a repeat viewing?
To start, I’m not really sure what to say about the story - overall its not too bad, but it's not really anything groundbreaking or new either. After Luke Goss' character, Carl Lucas, ends up in prison, a crime lord wants him dead so he doesn’t squeal to the cops about some illegal stuff he's involved in, so he puts a bounty on his head. Said situation is made easier considering the deadly new tournament that Carl finds himself in. But, as you can likely guess, not all things go according to plan and plenty of wrenches get thrown into the bad guys' plan as the story progresses. Like I said, not the greatest or most inventive plot in the world but serviceable enough, I can assure you.
One of the things that can take your mind off a bland plot however, is good acting from the people on-screen, and said acting for this one is about as good as can be expected for a direct-to-video sequel to an mindless action movie like Death Race, if not slightly better. Personally I thought it was pretty darn good for what I was expecting, and the actors did justice to their roles. Luke Goss as Carl Lucas was a good casting call as he played his part perfectly as both a law-breaking bad ass as well as our central hero with a heart. Robin Shou from Mortal Kombat fame returns as 14-K, his role in the first Death Race movie, and as to be expected from him, he did fine with what he was given. It should also be noted here that he’s the only actor to appear in all three Death Race movies.
Of course the biggest selling point of these movies are the rip-roaring mindless edge-of-your seat vehicular slaughter and action, and I thought this movie did great justice to the series in that area. First off we get a few nice big set pieces - we have a car chase concerning bank robbers which while not the big highlight of the movie was still a pretty nice start to all the fun, then we get to the predecessor to Death Race event itself, a game titled Death Match which is an all-out fight to the death (or till submission) involving hand-held weapons in arenas that are uniquely done up with weapon caches, props, and set designs and came across to me very much like a level of the computer game Unreal Tournament. We get at least two fight scenes of this Death Match game before the minds behind it upgrade it to what the movie series is known for, and the main event comes to call: The Death Race. And that in itself is a big win for fans as we finally get to see the vehicular-created chaos that we all know and love from the Death Race franchise.
The action wouldn't be very exciting though if the special effects weren't up to par with them, which so often they're not in cheap CGI-filled B-movies, but the visual effects for a movie like this requires some nice oldschool practical effects-work that all movies (especially these B ones) seem to have forsaken this day in age, and boy is this movie so much better off for it; It has some truly amazing and very real stunts, gory blood-packet effects, full-scale pyrotechnics, and some truly impressive and crazy driving skills. Oh, and the explosions are no laughing matter either and will certainly please fans of mindless action flicks. All these things lead to some good and unique death scenes as well.
Like with my Death Race 3 review, there’s really not much more I can say other than the heat really gets turned up from the first more in this one. Death Race 2 was so well-made, it really could have gone theatrical like the first, and I’d have seen it Day 1 if it had.
Death Race 2, as far as I’m concerned, was just as good as the first Death Race directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, and was an excellent prequel and addition to the series that holds up quite well upon re-watches.
8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward