Classic Intel: Death Race 2000 - Online Review

'annoying bit parts take us deep into the bargain basement. Announcer Junior (Don Steele) is Alan Partridge on an ill-advised cocaine trip, Joyce Jameson's Grace Pander is every Aunt you've ever hated with a louder, more irritating voice'

It is a mistake to label the simplistic cars-as-weapons plot mechanics of Death Race 2000 as 'stupid'. Whilst on the surface there are few smarts to be found in a film wholly concerned with running people over, Paul Bartel's cult offering finds a clever, snarky sense of humour in the middle section and places its carmageddon mechanics around a plot focusing on the oppression of the masses, the release provided by violent distraction, a common site in cinemas featuring Jennifer Lawrence this Summer.

Despite this, Death Race 2000 is still a pretty turgid slice of 1970s low-budget schlock. It hasn't aged well, with anti-hero Frakenstein (David Carradine) in particular looking very bargain bin-friendly and the cars lacking any sort of design work not resembling papier-mâché. The setup of Annie (Simone Griffeth) as the strong self-confident heroine is perpetually undermined by the film's willingness to exploit her and any other female character it cares to invent (this is a Roger Corman production, after all), whilst the forays over to the rebel side of the force hold little drama, interest or acting ability.

Carradine is roguishly suave, Griffeth is awkward but alluring and Sylvester Stallone shouts a lot in the best part, the machismo, confused second-placer Machine Gun Joe Viterbo. Elsewhere though, annoying bit parts take us deep into the bargain basement. Announcer Junior (Don Steele) is Alan Partridge on an ill-advised cocaine trip, Joyce Jameson's Grace Pander is every Aunt you've ever hated with a louder, more irritating voice. They parody the talk show culture of passive-offensive entertainment at the expense of others but they do so whilst being wholly un-entertaining themselves, trapped by over-the-top direction into delivery it is difficult to sit through.

The racers - in Wacky Races cars, festooned with murderous modifications - are side shows too, Frankenstein and Viterbo the only two not reliant on pre-existing caricatures. The whole thing could erase most of its problems by giving every body a little bit more to do, but the cross country crawl feels like a Sunday drive at times and the eighty-minute runtime speeds by punctuated only by a handful of incidents.




Death Race 2000 was playing on Lovefilm Instant.

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