A few days ago, I made it a point to watch the Roger Corman-produced, Paul Bartel-directed Death Race 2000. It was quite different from I had built up in my mind, but pretty enjoyable, nonetheless. The reason I wanted to watch the ’75 flick was really to prepare myself for what I thought was a sequel that had just been released. It turns out G.J. Echternkamp’s Death Race 2050 isn’t a sequel, but instead a brand new re-imagining of the low-budget action comedy… and it’s wonderful!
Fans and spectators from all over the country have gathered for the fifth annual Death Race, where a group of drivers battle it out for the most points and the quickest route to New Los Angeles. The more pedestrians they kill, the higher they score, and these racers are ready to start racking up the points!
After watching the original Death Race, I knew I was in for a low-budget, outrageously over-the-top 93 minutes. I did not know, however, how much I would enjoy this movie. Death Race 2050 turned out to be way better than I expected, impressing me from almost every aspect of filmmaking. Roger Corman, the king of b-movies, and his co-writer/co-editor G.J. Echternkamp have managed to pay homage to the original fun cult-classic, while revamping things and making it more ‘suitable,’ if you will, for modern-day fans; All of the things we loved about 2000 are still present — the outlandish kills, the gratuitous nudity — but there are some great additions, as well.
It is of my humble opinion that no one can replace David Carradine’s Frankenstein or a young Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I quite enjoyed the performances of our new Frankenstein, Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night, The Hobbit trilogy) and a couple of the other characters of this modern-day cheesefest. The chemistry between Bennett and his beautiful new proxy/co-pilot, Annie (Marci Miller), was quite surprising and very welcome. They made for a great on-screen pairing and deliver the best performances of the film. Not far behind, however, was Burt Grinstead with his highly amusing portrayal of Jed Perfectus. I mean, with lines like “I’ll drink your tears, Frankenstein. I’ll lick them off your handsome face,” how can you not be entertained? Throw the ever-present Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) into the mix, and you got yourself a real b-movie instant classic!
On top of the great performances, Death Race 2050 actually looked rather impressive. Surprisingly good cinematography is displayed early on, with beautiful bird’s-eye views and aerial shots of the racers hot out of the gates. It doesn’t take long for the scoring, aka the killing, to begin either. There are a ton of CG effects featured in this film, and while it is clear this production’s budget is extremely miniscule, it doesn’t take away from the good time that there is to be had. In fact, on the contrary, it quite enhances it. There are also some great practical effects to be enjoyed, which, again, look way better than I initially expected. Limbs go flying, people are cut clean in half, and it all looks marvelous!
I recommend watching 1975’s Death Race 2000 before heading into this new installment, but even if you can’t find the time, you’ll still enjoy this one. Death Race 2050 is a fun time from start to finish with its beautiful women, fast cars, and over-the-top aesthetics. Be sure to pick up your copy today, available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
I give this bad-ass b-movie 4 emotional A.I. drivers out of 5.