• Death Race 3: Inferno

    Released By:
    Released On: January 22, 2013
    Director: Roel Reine
    Cast: Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott, Tanit Phoenix
    Year: 2012
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    The Film:

    Fact: If you played a drinking game while watching Death Race 3: Inferno in which you had to take a swallow every time a slow-motion sequence occurred, your liver would more than likely crawl out of your nose and slap you repeatedly across the face before the film hit the half-hour mark. Sadly, director Roel Reine has decided that in order to give the people more of what they want, taking action sequences to the extreme in which they became completely ridiculous seems to be the order of the day, crapping all over the less-is-more aesthetic that made Death Race 2 an enjoyable followup to the original (remake) big-budget Jason Statham vehicle.

    Taking the action away from Terminal Island, Reine's latest installment in the Death Race franchise is once again a prequel to the first film (ignoring the fact that the second film pretty much ended precisely where the first one starts), and finds corporate stooge and Death Race owner Weyland (Ving Rhames) losing his hit TV show in a hostile takeover to Gerard Butler-wannabe Niles York (Dougray Scott). Recognizing the potential to make mo' money, mo' money, mo' money, York decides to move the Death Race to South Africa, where it will take on a Baha-race format; using dune buggies to race through the desert. This is the first stop for York's Death Race, as he envisions the idea being co-opted by countries all over the world, making him richer than he already is.

    Back at the helm of the cast vehicle is a miraculously still alive Carl Lucas (Lucas Goss), whose Frankenstein character was supposed to have been burned alive in Death Race 2, but has been mysteriously rebuilt and skin-grafted, and just as good as ever. Granted, his pit-crew, made up of Goldberg (Danny Trejo) and Lists (Fred Koehler) are only slightly less pissed at him for still being alive than his girlfriend and navigator Katrina (Tanit Phoenix), but they're able to get most of that out of the way in the first few minutes. After becoming familiar with the other drivers, including a Mr. 14K, they jazz up Frankenstein's Mustang into a vehicle worthy of a desert race, and get down to the business of racing for their lives; but first, a moronic battle between a bunch of scantily-clad women has to take place, so that the navigators can be picked from the survivors.

    The centerpiece of the film is, of course, the Death Race itself. Utilizing the formula from the first two movies, the competitors must race through the dunes north of Capetown, attempting to drive between giant sword markers sticking out of the sand to pick up weapons. Gone are the shields (defenses), but in addition to each other, they'll also have to fight urban guerrillas in the town, freedom fighters who throw molotov cocktails, stones, sticks, and the occasional grenade at the drivers. Heading off course or attempting to escape activates a barrage of tracking missiles located at the operations base, which will zero in on the implants found in the necks of the drivers. With four wins under his belt (still), Frankenstein only has to earn one more win to get his freedom; but York isn't planning to let his star attraction leave anytime soon.

    It's a fair assumption that one isn't heading into a film like Death Race 3 expecting that it will win Best Dramatic Screenplay or any other accolades. Much like the first two films, the draw here is action and lots of it. However, where Reine took the opportunity in the second film to develop characters and such, a limit of his less-than-Hollywood budget, he's completely abandoned the idea altogether in this film. Lucas is one-dimensional and annoying, Katrina's purpose in the film is to wear next to no clothing (when she's not getting naked), Lists is his usual stuttering, second-guessing self, and Goldberg is....Danny Trejo with the name Goldberg. Even the villain, Niles York, is so annoyingly over the top, he goes from so-bad-he's-good and right back into bad again, before venturing into insult-to-our-intelligence territory. And with character names like "Psycho"-he talks to himself in nonsensical dialogue; and "Joker"-he's sarcastic and ironic; it's pretty apparent that the writers haven't gone for anything that will get in the way of blow-ups and boobies.

    The action sequences themselves are well executed...the first time...but quickly turn into repetitive to the point of frustrating, as action sequences, sometimes within seconds of each other, exhibit the same slow-motion spectacle, with the same low frequency bass sweep that has become the norm in action films, but used to such excess that they're complete overkill. With no likable characters, and action scenes that become stupid within minutes, is there any reason to watch Death Race 3?

    The answer is: No. The worst, WORST thing about Death Race 3 is how badly Reine craps all over the first two films by ignoring the continuity that he himself established with the second film. Ignoring that the second film led directly into the first film, ignoring the continuity of the vehicles, ignoring relationships between characters...if he really wanted to do something DIFFERENT with the film, he could've thought a little more outside the box than, "let's make them race in the desert" and come up with a more successful script. (In the supplements, his decision to "do things differently" hinged on whether to have them race in the desert, or the arctic....come on.) The Making Of featurette found on the disc finds Reine wanting to make "Death Race 4...5....6, 7, 8" and so on; we can only hope that he either gives his head a shake and comes up with something better than different track terrain, or that the franchise gets handed to a more competent visionary. The great news is that if you're too slow to understand what happened in the film, or fell asleep 10 minutes in and woke up later on, the filmmakers have included a step-by-step walkthrough/explanation at the end of the film that's worthy of an episode of Columbo.


    Universal brings Death Race 3: Inferno to blu-ray with an Unrated (and Rated) cut, featuring material not shown in the theatre. The 1.78:1 transfer looks good, though timing decisions and other video settings described as intentional by Reine do make the film look a little washed out and funny at times. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is about as excessive as the action scenes, with just about every minute of the film blasting through all five speakers and the sub, a great way to break in your home theatre. Fortunately, the lame-o dialogue is always clear and balanced well with the effect and score (and bass drops) with no issues to speak of.

    There are also a fair number of supplements to be found on the disc. First up is the Alternate Opening (5 minutes) that recaps the ending of the second film and shows Carl's facial reconstruction and Weyland's reasoning for it.

    Next up are 9 Deleted Scenes (11:50) that include part of the alternate opening and don't really add to the film at all.

    A Deleted Shots Montage (5:00) playss out like a music video/commercial with spoilers, and contains shots from the movie, shots from the deleted scenes, and behind the scenes shots from the set, and is pretty much not worth watching at all.

    The Making of Death Race 3 (10:39) features the cast and Reine talking about working together and filming in Africa, and also has some contributions from the stunt and FX crew talking about their part in the film.

    Racing For Death (6:00) is an addendum to the Making of that focuses strictly on the vehicles used in the film.

    Art Imitating Life is a short piece on actor Danny Trejo, who talks about his journey from Death Row to movies, and is interesting just to hear Trejo talk about what a badass he was.

    Finally, a feature-length commentary with Director Roel Reine is included, and covers a ton of topics, such as shooting in Capetown, the budget limitations that he faced in making the film, utilizing the cars from Fast and Furious Five, as well as lighting techniques and special effects. Reine obviously loves what he's done here, and talks pretty much non-stop throughout the running time, rarely resorting to a description of what's on screen. Anyone with any interest in the film will probably enjoy the commentary for its informative nature.

    The Final Word:

    I have a good number of films in my collection that have been called "stupid" or "brainless". I enjoy the hell out of a decent action film, even if there's nothing to it but good, campy fun. Death Race 3: Inferno is not one of these films....it is a 105-minute waste of time. Avoid.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!