Death Race 2050, 2017
Written and Directed by G.J. Echtemkamp.
Starring Manu Bennett, Malcom McDowell, Marci Miller, Burt Grinstead and Folake Olowofoyeku.
America is now a corporation where states have melded into one, entertainment is beamed through headsets into the minds of docile masses and anarchy reigns supreme. A chosen few are held up as heroes warped, twisted and manipulated into an image which suits The Chairman and The Death Race. Careening across different zones in wildly supped up cars, these men, women and artificial lifeforms mow down pensioners, children, immigrants and the infirm without impunity for points towards an ultimate goal.
This sequel to the 1975 Paul Bartel cult classic is big on kitsch, low on production values and revels in camp with a tongue firmly planted in its cheek. Employing back projection during a majority of in car conversations, outlandishly fake scenery and acting which redefines caricature, Death Race 2050 is an easy watch.
Drawing on elements which made the original such a cult favourite in later years, we get less than subtle digs at corporate America, its corrupt economy and jobless future writ large. Frankenstein as immortalised by David Carradine and portrayed this time round by Manu Bennett, is more a figurehead for this disillusioned society than anyone worthy of worship. Bloodletting is comical and so poorly done that things actually start to be entertaining. Burt Grinstead’s Jed Perfectus, arch nemesis to Frankenstein, has stepped right out of a Troma project all gold posing pouch and chiselled abs. Prancing around like a cartoon character and achieving maximum camp with minimum effort.
Malcolm McDowell meanwhile is earning every dollar of his pay cheque by committing to The Chairman with barely restrained gusto. His hair has been stolen from Stanley Tucci in any Hunger Games film you care to name, while he is perfectly aware of how ridiculous things are getting. G J Echtemkamp who directed and co-wrote Death Race 2050 clearly loves the original with a passion, as tonally there is little to separate them. Apart from the Knight Rider clone who carries a co-pilot in the chassis, he has recreated the Seventies look without resorting to blatant plagiarism.
Elsewhere the idea of tying an audience in via virtual reality might come across as old hat but works surprisingly well. As a population America is portrayed in a narrow minded darkly comic manner, where people are perpetually wasted and glued to their sofa. Either that or stuck out in the backwoods somewhere wielding weapons and lining themselves up for bumper fodder.
Despite all this what slowly dawns on you is how entertaining Death Race 2050 actually becomes. It is true that the cinematography, production values, FX work and acting are hiding under several inches of cheese, but anyone buying this knows that going in. Those who liked the original for nostalgic purposes will find much to like here. True there is no Sylvester Stallone or David Carradine to lift proceedings but neither is Jason Statham anywhere in sight. For those who remember the 2008 effort which was hailed as a spiritual remake rather than carbon copy this will be good news. For anyone else who likes something so badly made, crass and tasteless that it crosses the line into being great entertainment would do well to pick it up.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★