XenForo Template DEATH RACE 2 Studio: Universal Year: 2011 Length: 1 hr 39 mins (R Rated Version) 1 hr 41 mins (Unrated Version) Genre: Action Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 BD Resolution: 1080p BD Video Codec: AVC (@ an average 30 mbps) Color/B&W: Color Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps, up higher during racing scenes) French DTS 5.1 Spanish DTS 5.1 Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish Film Rating: R (Brutal Violence, Pervasive Language, Some Sexual Content) Unrated Version (More of the same) Release Date: January 18, 2011 Starring: Luke Goss, Fred Koehler, Tanit Phoenix, Patrick Lyster, Joe Vaz, Danny Trejo, with Ving Rhames and Sean Bean Screenplay by: Tony Giglio Directed by: Roel Reiné Film Rating: 2/5 It is hard to properly identify Death Race 2 in a brief description, given the history of the title. The short version is that it’s a low budget, direct-to-video prequel to a moderately budgeted Jason Statham action movie from two years back. And the Jason Statham movie was itself a remake of Death Race 2000, a low budget Roger Corman action spoof I reviewed here last year. The title Death Race 2 is itself misleading, since the events here take place BEFORE the Statham movie. (One supposes they could have had a qualifier in the title, like the Chuck Norris classic Missing in Action 2: The Beginning…) Further confusing matters is a scene in this movie where one villain is watching the original Death Race 2000 on television… With that out of the way, I can relate that the movie itself is obviously a low-budget affair, shot on HD video in South Africa with a couple of the lower level cast members from the Jason Statham movie included for the ride, three recognizable character actors thrown in to boost the sales (Danny Trejo, Sean Bean and Ving Rhames), and a lead actor clearly chosen for his resemblance to Jason Statham. The movie is clearly supposed to be taking place in the US, but it’s more than obvious that it was shot in South Africa, not only from the accents of much of the supporting cast but from the obvious use of South African city locations where landmarks and shop names are clearly visible. The sloppiness extends to multiple aspects of the film, including arbitrary script choices, abruptly changing scenarios, and some embarrassing moments where shots are used in the film that clearly show the movie crew standing in the middle of the situation! (Watch the end of the bank robbery chase near the beginning of the movie. After the big grenade explosion – which happens just outside the bank that we’re supposed to have driven miles away from, but I digress – you’ll see the movie crew, including the man holding the boom pole, running out to the cars in the background with fire extinguishers.) The only carry-overs from the Statham film appear to be the two supporting cast members and the cars themselves, which were shipped to South Africa for use here. The plot here is simple, and dragged out beyond anyone’s interest. Luke Goss plays a criminal getaway driver who winds up in a maximum security prison that holds live death match competitions for a television audience. After he is seen speeding around the prison in a rebuilt junker, the TV producers decided to start the Death Race of the title, and the fun begins. Of course, the race itself doesn’t get underway until about an hour into the movie, and it’s only then that a few moments of invention (mostly lifted from the stylings of the first film) make for any interest. I’m hard-pressed to find any reason to recommend this title. I suppose if you’re a fan of the Jason Statham film, you might want to watch this. And if you’re a fan of the Roger Corman movie, there might be something there – I must admit that the tone of Death Race 2 is actually close to that of Corman’s original – down to the final disposition of the TV announcer. There’s one great irony at work here, of course. Roger Corman made his original movie in 1974 for $300K. This movie was made last year, some 36 years later, for $15M – and it’s still clearly a low budget affair. Death Race 2 has been released on DVD and Blu-ray last week, in both an R-Rated version and an Unrated version that runs two minutes longer. The Blu-ray includes a 1080p AVC transfer, a DTS-HD MA sound mix, along with a few extras. The packaging includes the standard definition DVD and the code for downloading a digital copy Aside from this, the Blu-ray includes the usual Blu-ray functionality, including BD-Live, pocket BLU and the My Scenes bookmarking function, as well as D-Box functionality. VIDEO QUALITY 3/5 Death Race 2 is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.78:1 transfer that certainly looks better than the last direct-to-DVD sequel I sat through (Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball). In this case, the HD photography looks a lot better, particularly the super-slow-motion footage of car crashes and explosions. The daylight look of the prison footage is gritty, but this is clearly an intentional effect. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread. AUDIO QUALITY 3 ½/5 Death Race 2 is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, along with DTS mixes in French and Spanish. This mix gets loud frequently, whenever we get into action and chase sequences. The mix is indisputably the best thing about this movie. SPECIAL FEATURES 3/5 The Blu-Ray presentation of Death Race 2 comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity, pocket BLU, D-Box and My Scenes functionality, along with some deleted scenes and shots, three featurettes and a commentary with the director. Commentary with Director Roel Reine – This scene-specific commentary with the Dutch director is fairly informative, as he reveals just how limited his resources were in making this movie. (The bank robbery chase, for example, was shot within 2 days, and only within a small area of downtown Cape Town, which is why the same streets get repeated throughout the sequence.) Reine discusses the changes he made to the script to punch up the action, and his manner of recording action sequences. In fairness to the man, he shows here how efficiently he did what the producers wanted – whether or not the end product is anything special. Deleted Scenes (5:46, 1080p) – A few deleted scenes are shown in 1080p high definition, mostly just adding more shading to the story, including some hallucinations by the lead character. Deleted Shots (4:52, with a :49 introduction, 1080p) – Reine introduces a montage of various shots he either cut out of the movie entirely, or of which he only used smaller parts. One good example is the drive-up to the bank robbery, where the camera swings all the way around the car as it lands and the guys get out, settling back into a profile of the car as Luke Goss is left outside. Reine mentions in his introduction that he regularly shoots about 70-75 shots each day, which should give you an idea of the budget and working conditions he has on his set. The Race Begins: The Evolution of the Death Race (6:36, 1080i) – This featurette talks about the basic idea of this prequel, and about how Reine rewrote and then shot it. The usual mutual compliments are featured here, along with some video from the set of Reine operating the camera on several shots. Cheating Death: The Stunts of Death Race 2 (9:38, 1080i) – This featurette discusses the various driving and action stunts involved in the movie. Luke Goss and his stunt double are among the group that gets interviewed here, and there’s plenty of on-set video of the planning and filming of the various gags. Fast Cars and Firearms: The Cars of Death Race 2 (6:59, 1080i) – This featurette discusses the battle cars used in the film, all of which were brought over to South Africa after having been seen in the Jason Statham movie. BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here. Pocket BLU – This phone-related functionality is available for viewers with the right cellular equipment. D-Box – The usual D-Box functionality is available for those viewers who have this equipment. DVD Edition – The packaging also includes the standard definition DVD of the movie. The DVD holds both versions of the movie, along with Reine’s commentary and the featurettes and deleted scenes, albeit in standard definition. The DVD’s primary sound is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (at 448 kbps) that sounds fine, but doesn’t work at the level of the Blu-ray’s mix. Digital Copy – The packaging also includes a slip with the code for a digital download of the movie. The slip indicates this will be for the Unrated edition. The film and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish. The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu. IN THE END... Death Race 2 is probably not a blind buy, or even a blind rental. It could properly be seen as a prequel to the Jason Statham movie, and it is presented in the best possible manner on Blu-ray. The fact remains that it’s a low-budget direct-to-DVD follow-up to an action film, and that we’re not talking either star qualities or critical acclaim here. If you’re interested in this kind of film, you could certainly rent it. Kevin Koster January 27, 2011.