Movie: Death Race 2000 vs. Death Race
My Rating: 4 Bombs
So, I’ll be rolling out a new rating system for movies that are just too bad not to love. And, for those treasures, I’ll be handing out bombs. Think of them as stars. The more bombs the better. But, they’re reserved for movies that are just so trashy, poorly written, and offensively wonderful, that you can’t help but cheering for them. And, that rating system definitely applies to the Death Race series—both the old classic, and the new film with its terrible sequels.
I had a marathon viewing session over the weekend where I screened all the Death Race movies back to back. That included the original Death Race 2000 from 1975, as well as all the modern re-makes. And, the two eras couldn’t be more different from each other. For one thing, Death Race 2000 is a comedy, whereas the films from the actual 2000s are only unintentionally funny. But, there’s always a good time to be had with that kind of thing. You can always count on Jason Statham to glower into the camera, do a few greased-up, shower pull-ups, and stand stock-still during heated argument scenes because he can’t move from the apple box he’s standing on. It’s adorable.
But 2000 is an unapologetic good time. The 70s fashions and hairdos are glorious. The dystopian politics in the story are hilarious. And, this movie never runs out of excuses for the ladies to get their tits out. Sure, they’re floppy, 70s tits, but it’s still fun. It’s a wacky race across the country with drivers scoring points for all the pedestrians they mow down. Extra points for babies, clergy, and the elderly! It’s a riot. And, despite this movie coming out about forty years prior to the modern movies, the writing is surprisingly more progressive when it comes to race, politics and gender roles. That’s probably because the original was written for the fun of it, while the remake was probably written by a committee of the most cynical Hollywood executives, pandering to the masses—an audience with the taste and intellect of a twelve-year-old boy.
The original has both male and female drivers, whereas the 2008 version only casts women as the eye-candy navigators. The drivers are incarcerated inmates, and these sexy navigators are shipped over from the ladies prison to provide a little “motivation” for the inmates. Of course, each driver is specifically assigned a sexy lady of his own race. (Middle America isn’t ready for no racial mingling—‘merica!). And, you can’t cut between scenes without a few hard rock riffs, and a helicopter shot of an industrial shipping yard. It’s offensively bad. But, you can’t help wallowing in all that garbage. It’s magically bad, and, totally irresistible. I’m really a sucker for punishment.
I think you should definitely watch the original Death Race 2000. That film is great. It’s quirky, and sexy, and totally subversive. And, I think I’d even recommend watching the train-wreck that is the 2008 “remake.” (Really, the only thing these movies have in common is that the characters are involved in a state-sponsored car race). It’s trashy, and stupid, (and even pretty insulting), but also very gratifying to you inner teenage boy. Steer clear of the two modern sequels. Those are awful. They’re really just a cold grab for cash. (Although, the third does feature Danny Trejo, and he can be pretty funny). You’ll enjoy these movies for totally different reasons, but they’re both a good time.