Death Race 2050 Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Directed by G.J. Echternkamp
Written by G.J. Echternkamp and Matt Yamashita
2016, 93 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on January 17th, 2017
Manu Bennett as Frankenstein
Malcolm McDowell as Chairman
Marci Miller as Annie Sullivan
Burt Grinstead as Jed Perfectus
Folake Olowofoyeku as Minerva Jefferson
Anessa Ramsey as Tammy
Yancy Butler as Alexis Hamilton
The future has never looked better as the Transcontinental Death Race returns with legendary drivers Jed Perfectus, Minerva Jefferson, an AI car named Abe, and a popular evangelist named Tammy all trying to unseat returning champion and racing legend Frankenstein. The stakes are higher this year amidst the rumors of terrorists threatening to disrupt the race with roadside bombs and other attacks. The event starts with an announcement from the Chairman of the United Corporations of America, assuring the people that he loves them and will continue to give them exactly what they want.
In the not too distant future, hit-and-run driving has become the national sport, and innocent pedestrians are the ticket to scoring points in this race. Drivers are encouraged to kill as many men, women and children as possible along the way to the finish line. Handicapped children are lined up in the street for slaughter, while obsessed fans willingly sacrifice themselves so that their favorite drivers may gain a higher score.
Recent listings credit legendary producer Roger Corman with over four hundred titles, and at age 90 he shows no sign of slowing down. Corman is known not only for the illustrious career he has enjoyed, but also for giving countless new filmmakers the chance to make a name for themselves. One of his latest productions is Death Race 2050, a remake-reboot-sequel to his cult classic Death Race 2000 (1975). The original drive-in classic directed by Paul Bartel is a beloved sendup of violence in America and the media that covers it. The cast is charismatic, the action is spectacular and the direction is top notch. It is easy to see how this forty-year-old movie has earned its rabid following. This popularity led to a Hollywood remake called simply Death Race (2008), a film that has spawned three direct-to-video sequels. Now comes Corman’s official entry into the race and this time he’s placed G.J. Echternkamp in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately the young director is not up to challenge and quickly stalls out.
Echternkamp and Matt Yamashita adapted the Death Race 2000 screenplay by Robert Thom and Charles B. Smith – which was based on the original story “The Racer” by Ib Melchior -- and removed all traces of subtlety and irony, opting instead for an over-the-top cartoonish approach to the material. The best scenes of Death Race 2050 are simply recycled bits from the original film and yet they manage to fall flat in execution, as this is merely a tawdry remake of a low-budget legend. The anti-violence message is paired with a shaming of inactive people watching the world pass by on tiny screens or through virtual enhancement rather than simply stepping outside and living life to the fullest. Some of the characters are given a few minutes quiet introspection, but these prove fleeting and are eclipsed by more noise in the next scene. Fans of the original will not want to brake for this clunker, and newcomers who don’t know any better will not find anything worth remembering about this lemon either.
Video and Audio:
Death Race 2050 was shot last year with HD cameras and receives a very strong transfer in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Clarity is never an issue, as there is a lot of detail in fabrics and facial features, and colors are nicely saturated, but the shoddy green screen backgrounds and digital blood look terrible.
The disc offers a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that keeps things active throughout the numerous action sequences. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion and is balanced well with the music and effects tracks.
English subtitles are available for anyone in need.
G.J. Echternkamp is joined by members of the cast and crew including Roger Corman to discuss the production in The Making of Death Race 2050 (10 minutes). This is a traditional promotional featurette filled with clips from the film, but Corman’s participation makes it worth watching.
The Look of 2050 (6 minutes) offers a brief glimpse at filming locations and wardrobe decisions that work to create a futuristic feel.
Any film that centers around a cross country road race should require a bonus segment dedicated to the design of the vehicles and Cars! Cars! Cars! (5 minutes) does just that.
Anyone looking for more information on the specific cars and their drivers will want to check out Cast Car Tours (9 minutes).
A collection of nine deleted scenes (6 minutes) is included, but these offer nothing to the film and were wisely excised.
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