Death Race 2
Directed by: Roel Reine
Starring: Sean Bean, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Luke Goss, Fred Koehler, Robin Shou, Tanit Phoenix, and Lauren Cohan
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Unrated – Contains material different from the R-Rated version
Rated R – Brutal violence, Pervasive language, and some sexual content
Straight-to-DVD releases and sequels can be very tricky. Sometimes you get good ones (“30 Days of Night: Dark Days,” “The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior”) and then most of the time you get bad (“The Cell 2″) or mediocre (” Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation,” “The Grudge 3,” “Open Season 2,” Most of the Disney Classic sequels) ones. You just never know. However, it sure is a surprise and joy when you do run across that rare example of a commendable one. That was my feeling as the credits rolled for “Death Race 2.”
“Death Race 2” is a prequel to the first theatrical film that “tells the explosive story of how the legendary race began. In the world’s most dangerous prison, a new game is born: Death Race. The rules of this adrenaline-fueled blood sport are simple, drive – or die. When repentant convict Carl Lucas discovers there’s a price on his head, his only hope is to survive a twisted race against an army of hardened criminals and tricked-out cars.”
Director Roel Reine is no stranger to the direct-to-DVD sequel world. He cut his teeth on “The Marine 2” and is presently in post-production on the third entry of “The Scorpion King” franchise entitled “Rise of the Dead.” He definitely got some quality performances out of his actors and if there were any budget restrictions on the special effects for “Death Race 2” it didn’t stick out in the viewing experience.
The story for “Death Race 2” was definitely as smart as any other action movie released theatrically. It didn’t invoke Shakespeare but it also wasn’t just stuff blowing up. There’s even some nice twist and turns here and there. Writer Tony Giglio even manages to push enough quick character development to make us care about some of the individuals in the movie. This was obviously not a rush scripting job and if it was it doesn’t really show.
“Death Race 2” actually had some decent acting in it as I hinted at above. You had some relatively big names taking on roles in this thing. Sean Bean (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” ) played a great snake of a wealthy crime boss. Danny Trejo (“Machete,” “Predators”) brought his usual charm and style to the role of the “hero’s” right-hand man, Goldberg. Then you’ve got Ving Rhames (“Piranha,” “Mission: Impossible 3”) in the role of Weyland, the head of the corporation that founds Death Race. Fourth is Luke Goss (“Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “Blade II”), who plays the repentant and “heroic” Carl “Luke” Lucas who just wants to serve his time but is unwittingly pulled into the Death Match and Death Race of the Terminal Island prison facility. The actresses in the film also do a good job with their roles. They’re definitely not there just for guys to stare at. Lauren Cohan (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Supernatural”) completely throws herself into the role of the wicked and conscienceless host and instigator of Death Race named September Jones. Tanit Phoenix (“Lost Boys: The Thirst,” “Lord of War “) convincingly plays prisoner Katrina Banks both with emotional charge and violent outbursts as Carl “Luke” Lucas’s love interest. Returning actors from the first “Death Race” included Fred Koehler (“Lost”) as Lists and Robin Shou (“Beverly Hills Ninja”) as 14K.
The special effects in the movie were not of the “budgetville” type. Every explosion was massive and every car wreck was a beautiful mess of destruction. It was visually everything you would expect from this type of movie. The bloody and gory death scenes even looked impressive.
I’m not entirely sure what made the version I saw “Unrated.” The only thing I saw that could be construed as “offensive” was the amount of men’s body parts and butt shots they put in it. There were no real nude shots of any women, which is very rare to happen in these types of movies. I didn’t find the gore or violence any more intense than the theatrical version of “The Expendables,” that’s for sure. Regardless, the DVD and Blu-ray come with a “Rated” version as well.
I would say that “Death Race 2” should more than satisfy fans of the original film. It definitely doesn’t take any noticeable shortcuts in quality to save a buck for profit. The movie is a quality prequel that will answer the questions of how it all began for audiences who loved the first “Death Race.”
There’s not really any exclusive Bonus Features for the Blu-ray version of “Death Race 2.” The special features for both the Blu-ray and regular format DVDs include Deleted Scenes (one of which actually adds some depth to one of the characters) with introduction by director Roel Reine; Deleted Shots Montage with introduction by director Roel Reine which has some impressive extra scenes of road carnage, explosions, gore, and more; “The Race Begins: The Evolution of the Death Race” is a short yet satisfying look at how the prequel fits into the “Death Race” franchise that features interviews with the director, producer, and cast members; “Cheating Death: The Stunts of ‘Death Race 2′” successfully showcases the film’s death-defying stunts as the crew invite viewers along on the ride of a lifetime; and “Fast Cars and Firearms: The Cars of ‘Death Race 2′” efficiently takes a look under the hood of the awe-inspiring autos featured in the film. There’s also Feature Commentary with director Roel Reine.
“Death Race 2” comes in two different packages. You can get it in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy version and a regular format DVD version. Both versions have pretty much the same technical specifications that include Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French Canadian), and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish) Audio; English SDH, French, and Spanish Subtitles; and Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) Picture.
You can get the “Death Race 2” Blu-ray right here.
You can get the “Death Race 2” regular format DVD right here.