I’m a fan of the original classic Death Race 2000 in all its cheesy glory, so I was pretty hesitant about seeing this remake film. Curiosity finally got the better of me last night and I have to say that I’m torn 50/50 on it.
To its credit, this remake has a stronger storyline as well as the expected upgrades on all the action and special effects. Instead of one big race there are three race stages where drivers are permanently eliminated from the competition. The biggest change being that the drivers aren’t just folks off the street who entered the competition but rather hardened criminals in a maximum security prison system driving for the chance to win their freedom. It’s basically gladiators on wheels.
On the downside, everything that endeared the original film to me was lost in the process. Call me deranged, but the twisted humor in drivers getting points for mowing down pedestrians with their cars and all the interesting ways this was accomplished really made the original “Death Race 2000” such a fun movie.
The remake is far more compassionate to the race fans and makes sure that everyone who is in danger of dying has presumably done something to deserve it. There are no fans out there sacrificing themselves to help their favorite racers score points, no drivers scoring their own pit crew, and no Euthanasia Day at the Hospital.
The drivers themselves aren’t nearly as flashy or full of personality. The only familiar names we see are “Frankenstein” and “Machine Gun Joe”. Although the prison Brotherhood gang has a driver, he’s no tip the hat to the original “Matilda the Hun” character.
I think this film should have been a stand-alone film instead of carrying the Death Race brand, much like I believe Hannibal Rising would have been fine film if it hadn’t named its lead character Hannibal Lecter. The remake loses much of its controversial appeal by giving the violent plot a somewhat more acceptable reason for being and giving the audience the feel-good assurance that the people who die at least deserve it to some extent.
If this is the current trend in remaking films then I am very worried about a remake of Friday the 13th. I can just imagine Jason Vorhees being given a somewhat noble purpose by butchering only those counselors who have a police record.
Film information: Death Race