The second movie, wittily entitled Death Race 2 was actually a far better movie than the Paul WS Anderson remake of the 1975 Roger Corman produced Paul Bartel directed original that came before it. The trick was it told a compelling story with a beginning, middle and ending and shot the action scenes with style without feeling like the camera was on a bungee rope whilst having an epileptic fit. PWSA may be able to frame a nice visual but his genre narratives always seem to lack a satisfactory final act and embrace style often mistaking it for substance.
With Death Race 2, Luke Goss’s main character of a getaway driver who becomes a convict/superstar had a definite arc which paid off nicely come the ending. The second film’s director Roel Reine thankfully returns for the third instalment, the action is ramped up this time and the narrative less so which is a good and bad thing.
For this third movie Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) is fully into his role as Frankenstein, the star driver of the most popular televised sport of all time; Death Race. Thing is his pit crew; Goldberg, Lists and female co-pilot/convict Katrina have no idea who is behind the mask presuming that Lucas is dead. When Death Race founder Weyland (Ving Rhames) is muscled out of his own company by the ruthless Niles York (Dougray Scott), York amps up the action and threat even though Lucas/Frankenstein is close to his one more win and set free clause being fulfilled. In order to keep his star driver, York then moves the action to the Kalahari Desert where the prisons are rougher, the terrain harder and littered with heavily armed Kalahari gangsters who take pot shots at the vehicles. Lucas is forced to reveal his identity to his crew and they hatch a plan to guarantee their freedom.
If you looked at this series and thought that it was a straight to DVD affair and would have the budget and scope to match, think again. The Death Race sequels put much of the last year’s action output to shame (*CoughExpendables2*cough) in terms of portraying exciting and coherent action that you can follow. For the third in the series you might expect the quality to drop a little bit but this third movie feels even more expensive than the first two. The Kalahari has a real epic feel to it and the camera work consisting of multiple angles and set ups, often pulls back to reveal just how vast a location it is.
The race scenes have a real rhythm to them and the cutting and editing gets faster and more frequent depending on what’s happening on-screen, cutting rapidly between crashes, cockpits, control rooms and innocent bystanders in jeopardy to create something that really gets the adrenaline pumping. Luke Goss has long been Guillermo Del Toro’s go to villain, bringing a charisma and intensity to each role he played. He has now become this series MVP and it’s a wonder that the man isn’t a bigger deal. Goss is ably supported by the likes of Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo, as well as an over the top villain in Dougray Scott. Sadly once again the series portrays the women as either ladder climbing temptresses or busty eye candy but hey, you can’t have it all.
So despite the awesome action and all the appeal geared towards the regular Nuts and Zoo reader, Death Race 3: Inferno sadly doesn’t quite have the script or story to match this time out. There is a vague Oceans 11 style plot to break out of jail but it never really comes together as it should have whilst the screen is filled with burning rubber and blood. At the end things become more incoherent than ever, with the writers expecting us to believe a series of coincidences and near misses that led to a long in the making plan. Sadly it’s this which leads to the ultimate feeling that this third movie is a rather hollow affair despite everything that is great about it.
Overall Death Race 3: Inferno is fast, exciting, immoral and quite possibly brain-damaged but a great prospect for a beer and pizza Friday or Saturday night.