Naturally, when Miss September learns of Luke’s superior driving skills, she and the big cheese of The Weyland Corporation himself (Ving Rhames, chalking up yet-another b-movie classic to his résumé) brainstorm to create “Death Race.” Reluctant to even glance at Jones or her deadly-lucrative schemes, Luke becomes an unwilling participant in the grandiose competition — but soon changes his mind when a) his captors start to threaten his nerdy friend, Lists (Fred Koehler, reprising his role from the last film); b) learns that Kane has appointed a bounty on his head; and c) that, should he win the five-race event, he will receive a full pardon and released.
Those of you who haven’t seen the first film(s) won’t have any trouble settling in with Death Race 2. In fact, a casual viewing of this soon-to-be-cult-classic will only prompt you to check out the newer Jason Statham movie and (hopefully) the original midnight-movie favorite starring Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine. Also starring in this fast-paced thrill ride are Robin Shou (also recreating his character from Death Race), Tanit Phoenix (the “love interest”), and Machete’s own Danny Trejo as Goldberg, the Mexican Jew (paging Dr. Epstein!).
While Death Race 2 is a joy to behold — even for a jaded b-movie buff such as myself — some of director Roel Reiné’s editing skills leave a little to be desired. The monumental “Death Race” portion of the movie itself (or, the core of the whole thing) seems to lack a little of the fuel it should be powered by. Acting-wise, the movie exhibits some of the fine thespian proficiency you would expect from something that was made specifically for the home video market. Nevertheless, these flaws wind up taking a backseat (ha-ha) in the long run. Let’s face it: anyone expecting perfection from a movie like this should seriously have their engine checked.
Universal Studios Entertainment brings Death Race 2 to life via Blu-ray and DVD. Both releases give viewers the option of seeing the film in its original R-Rated version as well as an Unrated form. Sure, you have to wonder why a straight-to-video picture bears the familiar “This film has been modified from its original version to include additional material not in the original release” stipulation (why didn’t they just go with “unrated” and have done with?), but hey, you get to choose which rendering to view, right?