Don’t worry, if you haven’t seen any Death Race movies yet, you won’t have trouble following Death Race 3: Inferno. But if you haven’t seen the one that started it all, Roger Corman‘s Death Race 2000, then you’re doing something wrong with your life. Anyways, Death Race 2 director Roel Reiné and writer Tony Giglio are back for part three, as well as actors Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, and Tanit Phoenix. Find out how Universal’s Blu-ray measures up after the jump.
The 2008 Death Race is a prequel to the 1975 original, with Jason Statham taking on the role of pre-David Carradine Frankenstein. 2010’s Death Race 2 is a prequel to the Statham one, showing how the masked-persona of Frankenstein is created. In that one Luke Goss plays Lucas, a driver for the mob who’s sent to Terminal Island. He competes in the Death Race, does well, then gets horribly burned up in an accident. He can still drive, but since he’s legally dead he dons the mask of Frankenstein to continue competing.
This was a cool origin story and would have been the perfect bridge into the original Death Race. But they decided to do more movies, so here’s Death Race 3. Reiné really pushed the envelope with 2 as far as DTV action goes, and he’s pushed it even further with 3. There are bigger stunts, bigger explosions, and I swear Tanit Phoenix’s heaving cleavage is bigger too. It’s a pretty dumb movie that over explains itself in the end and takes itself too seriously, but overall it’s damn fine DTV action flick.
After he became Frankenstein in 2, the Death Race team of doctors repaired Lucas’ face. They pretty much pretend that 2 never happened. Lucas still wears the Frankenstein mask, but he reveals to his pit crew who he is. At first they’re all mad he pretended to be dead. Danny Trejo even gives him this speech about turning your back on your friends. But they all hug and make up, then it’s time to get down to business.
The Death Race has been bought from Weyland (Rhames) by wealthy Brit Miles York (Dougray Scott). His big idea is to expand the race all over the globe, including South Africa’s Kalahari Desert. It’s wicked hot there, which I guess is why the movie is subtitled Inferno. York is way more villainous than Weyland. He knows that if Frankenstein wins one more race he’ll be set free. No Frankenstein means a serious drop in the ratings, so he tells Lucas he can either throw the race or be killed. After all, no one knows it’s him behind the mask, which makes Frankenstein easily replaceable. Lucas has plans of his own though (duh).
The race action is pretty decent, especially when it comes to the CGI-less stunts (there’s hardly any CGI in the whole film, come to think of it). There are a few really big stunts, like when two guys jump out of a truck as it’s falling off a cliff (like they did in Fast Five). They practically blew Danny Trejo up for one stunt. You can see how they did it in “The Making of” featurette (11 minutes). Honestly, they set off a huge explosion right behind him, and the dude insisted on doing the stunt himself. I never doubted Mr. Trejo was a badass (he is the titular character in the movie Bad Ass, afterall), but doing that stunt himself was some next level shit.
Besides the car stunts, there’s some hand-to-hand fighting in the South African prison. It’s all edited really quickly, making the fighting look pretty lousy even without the use of nauseating shaky cam. The prison itself is ridiculous. They have convicts on giant hamster wheels that power the electric and the head guard is a female version of Idi Amin.
Just like in 2, they close with the film being a direct connection to the 2008 prequel. It’s a subtle note, but they have a photo of Ian McShane‘s Coach character in a file for Frankenstein’s new team. There’s probably going to be another movie in between though. In the making of feature, director Reiné says that he would love to do Death Race movies “forever.” Maybe he’ll choose to push the franchise further into the future of the original film, where there’s no America due to a financial crisis. It would be relevant! There could also be countless Frankensteins before we get to the David Carradine one, so who knows.
But if there is another Death Race, I hope that franchise-runner Paul W.S. Anderson gives the reigns to somebody else. Reiné knows how to work magic with DTV limitations, but he forgets once in a while that we’re there to have fun. He inserts these forced dramatic moments (including a cringing “I love you” bit) that really drag the enjoyment level down. There’s this unnecessary gravitas looming over the whole film that over-inflates much of the drama.
For those playing along at home: Death Race 2000 is a bonafide classic, Death Race is a great prequel, Death Race 2 is an okay prequel to the prequel, and Death Race 3: Inferno is the one that should bury the franchise before shit gets worse. Or at least get a different director for the next one.
Universal presents Death Race 3: Inferno in 1080p HD widescreen 1.78:1 with DTS Master Audio 5.1. I have no complaints with the look of it. Reiné never stops moving the camera, which is super annoying at times, but not the HD’s fault. The 5.1 sounds a little too chaotic at times, if that makes sense. Particularly during the race – it’s like this revving, obnoxious wall of sound.
There’s an unrated and R-rated version offered, but both are 105 minutes. I watched the unrated one, which must contains under 60 seconds of additional footage. Whatever.
The audio commentary with director Roel Reiné provides loads of metal-on-metal insight. He’s a really likable guy, but he does blame the low budget for the film’s shortcomings a few too many times. The lousy dramatic would’ve been the same with a major budget, man.
The disc also contains nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes, which viewers can watch as a montage. In addition to “The Making of” featurette, there’s also a six minute look at shooting the race scenes and a five minute examination of Danny Trejo’s character, Goldberg. Overall, it’s a solid disc for a decent DTV action movie, even if it takes itself too seriously.