'The Fast and Furious' meets 'The Running Man' in this fast-paced action vehicle directed by Paul W. S. Anderson of 'Resident Evil' fame. English actor Jason Statham who's made a name for himself in an array of action flicks steps into the role of the lead character with just enough charisma and energy to keep action junkies glued to their seats. That is if they are not demanding for anything above your average no-brainer action. As the title suggests, the main appeal to is a series of action sequences consisting of brisk car chases and of course, death and explosions. Throughout the picture, Anderson shows very little interest in plot and character development. For action fans however, this should not be too much of an issue. Anderson never attempts to try anything out of the ordinary to terms of action and narrative, but he at least succeeds on delivering a sense of excitement when the action kicks off. Set in 2012 when the unemployment in America has reached an all-time high and economic unrest has devastated our nation, the government has enacted a bill where criminals are sentenced for life in prison, but are acquired an opportunity to compete in a televised racing show known as "Death Race" run by the sadistic Hennessey (played by Joan Allen). In this show, prisoners are equipped with cars armed with fire-based weapons and must compete in a race. The competitor who wins all three races wins their freedom, while the others are doomed to return to their cells or die on the tracks. When ex-con Jensen Aimes (played by Jason Statham) is framed for the murder of his wife, he is sentenced to prison and must compete in the races, which puts him at extreme competition against Machine Gun Joe (played by Tyrese Gibson) and a path of vengeance for those who wronged him.
If you can picture the 'Twisted Metal' games in the form of a movie, that sums up how this action-packed film plays out. Paul W. S. Anderson takes the wheel in generating this film to the screen, and the results are somewhat satisfying, but with some noticeable flaws pertaining to the script. The majority of the action, which takes in on the race tracks designed in a fashion of a video game, are fine and deliver a fair source of adrenaline in the form of frenetic car chases. With the most action consists of explosions, car crashes, and people killed in a bloody and occasionally gruesome manner, there is enough energy to keep the excitement muscles flexing. When it comes to building up the plot, there is plenty of involvement that could be given. The premise involving prisoners competing in a futuristic gladiator race on live television opens the door to a potentially compelling plot. But aside from a just a snippet of social commentary, there isn't a whole lot of interesting ideas added to the mix. The plot is reduced to nothing but action and a few generic attempts of character development. Jason Statham, the appealing action star he is, puts on a good show as does Tyrese Gibson as his rival. Joan Allen shines in her role as the villainous women with a dubious demeanor. Ian McShane makes for a pleasant appearance in his role. Natalie Rodriguez as the sexy shot puts on a good performance, but serves a little more than eye-candy. None of the characters are polished with much depth, but at least the cast can make good use of the little they have to work with.
Death Race is a flawed, but somewhat entertaining action flick equipped with brisk pacing and slick action set pieces to feed action-hungry moviegoers. This movie is nothing inventive or particularly inspiring in the genre, but for what Paul W. S. Anderson delivers, it at least meets the criteria of an average action-packed ride.