Reviewer's grade: F
In "Death Race," Jason Statham ("The Bank Job," "War") stars as Jensen Ames, an honest man who never had a fair chance in life. In a dystopian future in which the United States economy has collapsed and work is scarce, Ames still manages to support his wife and baby daughter working in a steel foundry. As (bad) luck would have it, on the day the foundry closes, his wife is murdered, and on top of losing his job, Ames is framed for it. He finds himself in prison on the menacing-sounding Terminal Island, surrounded by unsavory types. Worst of all is Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen, "The Bourne Ultimatum," "The Upside of Anger"), who runs the Death Race, a no-holds-barred, pay-per-view racing extravaganza that keeps the corporate coffers full.
Based on B-movie producer Roger Corman's 1975 hit "Death Race 2000," the current incarnation disposes of all the goofy charm that made the original a cult classic. Gone is the network commentary, which provided the social satire and parody of American consumerism and love for spectacle. Instead, we're treated to the very thing the original was making fun of: a loud movie where people get their heads knocked off, are burned alive by napalm and get drilled through by sharp, metal wheel spikes. R