RogerBW's Blog

Death Race 2050 09 March 2019

2017 satirical action film, dir. G.J. Echternkamp, Manu Bennett, Marci Miller: IMDb / allmovie. In the dystopian future of America, the most popular entertainment is a cross-country road race with bonus points for slaughter en route.

That may sound somewhat familiar, and indeed, this is pretty much the same story as in Death Race 2000 (1975) with trappings of the Hunger Games series added. The rival racers are different, and there are some passing attempts to update the trappings (the audience is now watching via VR goggles, with pickups mounted on the racers' co-pilots), but the core of it all is the same as it ever was.

Which is surprising, when one considers how much is missing. There's no suggestion that this isn't the first Frankenstein, no secret assassination plan, no "hand grenade". Instead, there are more spectacular gore effects (in particular lots of flying body parts) and more attention paid to the other racers.

Not that those other racers are subtle characterisations, but they never were. This time we have Tammy the Terrorist, a Southern Belle cult leader; Minerva Jefferson the hip-hop artist ("Drive Drive Kill Kill is catchier than you might think); ABE the self-driving car (rather under-used); and Jed Perfectus, toxic masculinity personified (including plenty of bonus gay panic). Meanwhile, Thomasina Paine is replaced by Alexis Hamilton, and this time she's the one in favour of violence.

Corman still has his knack of getting a good show out of a tiny budget, but this film doesn't have anything to say that the original didn't. On the other hand it keeps up a sense of fun - not the "we know it's bad" winking at the audience of an Asylum production, but rather taking itself seriously in spite of the sillinesses and therefore inviting the audience to come along for the ride and ignore the cheapness. Yes, it's loud and stupid more than it's satirical, but it's still surprisingly enjoyable.

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