DEATH RACE 2050 (2017) Movie Review
So… it’s been roughly 30 years since the original DEATH RACE 2000, and in the ensuing decades since the Paul Bartel classic hit the screen, we’ve been teased with so many promises of sequels and remakes. Yes, David Carradine returned in DEATHSPORT, but even though New World aficionados like to speak of them in the same breath, that wasn’t really a sequel. [ Read: 10 Famous Voices Who Has Shaped Hollywood ]
Remember DEATH RACE 3000? That was going to star Tom Cruise and be the most expensive movie ever made up to that point. I’m rather glad that one didn’t happen.
Then, yes, we finally got our so-called remake in 2008. Now, I enjoyed DEATH RACE as a Jason Statham movie, as an action/stunt movie, what have you, but despite the fact that it had characters named ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Machine Gun Joe,’ it bore no resemblance whatsoever to its alleged inspiration. Nor did I bother with the pair of direct-to-disc prequels.
But at long last, we FINALLY have a DEATH RACE worthy of the name. A DEATH RACE that only Roger Corman could have produced. [ Read: Incarnate (2016 Horror – Thriller) Movie Review
I don’t usually review non-theatrical titles, but this baby hit Netflix just yesterday and I was champing at the bit ever since I saw the trailer last year. And it’s definitely a remake even though it’s set fifty years after the original. Hey, throw us a bone. 2000 is no longer futuristic and there wasn’t much potential in seeing what the few survivors of the original film were doing fifty years later, right?
We no longer have David Carradine, and nobody was stupid enough to attempt a Sylvester Stallone impersonation for this project. Frankenstein, of course, is eternal and unchanging, but now he’s played by Manu Bennett, and he walks right into the same “I know my navigator (Marci Miller) is a Resistance saboteur but I’m going to take her with me anyway” deal as before. Meanwhile, his primary antagonist is no longer Machine Gun Joe… now we have Burt Grinstead as the preening, egomaniacal Jed Perfectus, and he’s a riot. [ Read: Parched (2016) Movie Review]
In for Calamity Jane is Minerva Jefferson (Folake Olowofoyeku), a black singer who recently scored a hit with her theme song “Drive Drive, Kill Kill.” Matilda the Hun is out, but “Tammy the Terrorist” (Anessa Ramsey) is in, and she’s got a surprise for some lucky members of the audience before the race even starts! And filling the void left by Nero the Hero is A.B.E. (voice of D.C. Douglas), the latest in driverless car technology and a terrific addition to the concept even as ‘he’ lugs a thoroughly disinterested navigator along.
And of course, that’s Malcolm McDowell thoroughly enjoying his supervisory role as “Mr. Chairman” of the United Corporations of America (Washington D.C. is now located in Dubai, but Mr. Chairman is gracious enough to make a personal appearance at the finish line). [ Read: Finding Dory (2016) Movie Review]
So the specific characters and some of the incidents have been changed, and new VR tech allows lucky viewers to inhabit the passenger seat next to their favorite drivers… but at no point does one have to caution prospective viewers that “this ain’t your Daddy’s DEATH RACE.” First of all, I have no idea whether or not your father was a fan of DEATH RACE 2000. But far more importantly, this film goes out and does it the Corman way with cheerfully tacky micro-budget backdrops and special effects, tricked-out vehicles, colorful characters and an unapologetic attempt to press every hot button today’s viewers deal with on a day-to-day basis.
And YES, race fans, Charlie Farrell does proud in the shoes of ‘The Real’ Don Steele, and Grace Tickle (Shana Olson) happens to be a “close personal friend” of almost every celebrity involved. This DEATH RACE (adapted by director G.J. Echternkamp and Matt Yamashita from the original Robert Thom/Charles Griffith screenplay) remembers EVERYTHING you loved about the original.
Okay, except for the hand grenade.
This is a retro-future blast and it scores plenty of points where I’m concerned.
Roger Corman’s DEATH RACE 2050 [Official Red Band Trailer]