• Death Race: Beyond Anarchy (Universal Pictures) Blu-Ray Review



    Released By: Universal Pictures
    Released On: October 2, 2018.
    Director: Don Michael Paul
    Cast: Cameron Jack, Cassie Clare, Christine Marzano, Danny Glover, Danny Trejo
    Year: 2018
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    Death Race: Beyond Anarchy - Movie Review:

    A long time ago, some people got together and made a film called, "Death Race 2000." It wasn't the most well-received film, or the film with the highest budget, but it told a cool story about a race in which the contestants could be killed, and gained a cult following. Over thirty years later, some other people decided that a modern Death Race film could be kind of cool, especially with the way things were going in the world; this new,"Death Race" could showcase action superstar Jason Statham's physique and rad stunts, while also serving as a social commentary on corporations and their nasty ways. And 2008's Death Race did a fine job at that, slapping viewers in the face with politics while peppering the screen with gunfire and body parts.

    The film did well enough, I suppose, that a prequel was warranted, which came along in 2010, and then another sequel in 2013. The series did what they could to hold continuity together by bringing back characters from the previous films, but by the time they got to 2018's, "Death Race: Beyond Anarchy," little remained of the earlier films outside of Danny Trejo and that guy Alison went to school with. This latest installment finds the world on the brink of insanity; unemployment is way up, the economy is way down, cops are outnumbered by criminals, and the government responds by building a wall (could never happen in real life) and turning 138 square miles of city into a massive prison called The Sprawl. The owner of The Sprawl is none other than Weyland International, corporate baddie of the previous films, so it makes sense that they hold some kind of deadly competition on Pay TV to generate revenue and wipe out some bad guys, right?

    WRONG.

    In the era of The Sprawl, the Death Race is banned as immoral, made illegal by the government. But the inmates of The Sprawl care not for laws. Throwing the message of the previous films out the window, it turns out that these Escape From New Yorkish criminals LOVE the Death Race, a tradition racers must audition for by winning a Death Match in the Death Pit. The Death Race, much to the chagrin of the government and Weyland, is now broadcast on the Dark Web thanks to Lists (Frederick Koehler, that guy Alison went to school with), with bets on the race taken by bookie Goldberg (Danny Trejo). Where are they getting fuel for this, you may ask? Well, that comes courtesy of scientific mastermind Baltimore Bob (Danny Glover), who mixes his high-octane brew in exchange for protection from The Sprawl's HMFIC; a masked Death Race champion who goes by the name of Frankenstein.

    But enough of my rambling intro. Death Race: Beyond Anarchy starts off with Weyland and the government actively pursuing web broadcasts on the Dark Web to locate the source of the current, ongoing Death Race. They are having a hell of a time because it's difficult to track a huge-ass race with shit blowing up like crazy in a 138 square-mile area, and according to their very high-tech dialogue, there's some high-tech trickery going on. Fortunately, the race ends in a party with some kind of nu-metal/hip-hop/screamo band, more explosions, fire, boobs, smoke, and a lot of crotch-thrusting and cheering and girls making out, and that's a bit easier to locate. With the threat of having The Sprawl taken away from them for allowing too many shenanigans, Weyland are quick to send in a SWAT team; who are immediately shot to pieces and then carved into more pieces by buttocks-baring apron-wearers with chainsaws, all broadcast on the interwebs.

    Meanwhile, a helicopter is bringing fresh meat into The Sprawl, in the form of Connor Gibson (Zach McGowan) and Gypsy Rose (Yennis Cheung), who are greeted upon arrival by a bloodthirsty local law enforcement. While some prisoners who don't matter to the story are swiftly executed, Connor avoids the same fate by beating the holy hell out of everyone. This gets him an audience with Frankenstein at the Garage Bar (which features more partyin' loud music two girl action crotch thrusting) who grudgingly accepts Connor's badassedness, and earns him the admiration of Baltimore Bob, who decides that Connor should be a contestant in the next Death Race. Oh, and it also impresses the sultry barkeep, who is taken enough with Connor's rugged awesomeness to invite him to her bed.

    A heavy nu-metal montage of welding, grinding, sparks, smoke, and revving engines sets the stage for what's to come; the Death Race through The Sprawl, trying to avoid highway gangs, tough guys from the projects, and other sources of danger. But first, Connor must learn about Frankenstein's life story and his compulsion to run the city, and our new hero must also spill his life story to the bartender he just met. AND, he has to win a Death Match in the Death Pit, which will no doubt feature more smoke, more loud music, more nipples on nipples, and definitely more crotch-thrusting, which will definitely happen in a whole lot of slow-motion for effect. With Roger Murtaugh, that guy Alison went to school with, and an angry woman with an axe to grind as his navigator, how can he lose, even against long-time champion, Frankenstein?

    It's safe to say that anyone coming to Death Race: Beyond Anarchy is NOT looking for a high-art film with compelling characters and an engaging story to relate to. No, they're stopping by to see the Shit Blow Up Show, with special guests lesbians and boobs and slow-motion combustion. And Beyond Anarchy does an okay job delivering, with a caveat; it's way too damn long. Between the slow-mo and the repetition, the film could easily lose 25-35 minutes and pack far more of a punch instead of trying to be a 2-hour music video. Some bad editing, awkward full-frontal nudity, and moronic dialogue aren't enough to sink a ship, but they're certainly enough to take away from what Beyond Anarchy does well, namely creating a convincing environment where some very cool things could go down. Instead, we get character snippets fired into strange places, inane motivations, an ignorance of the previous films, and a strange compulsion to resort to excessive violence and more nudity to pad out the story.

    And check it out; even with talent like Danny Glover (and maybe Danny Trejo), there are no actors in this film who can pull it off. They all sit on screen like half-formed paper creatures, expecting the viewer to buy into their portrayal. Not even the guy Alison went to school with can pull this off, demanding high-tech supplies like, "Cat 5 cable", while McGowan tries to gaze smokily at everyone, and Danny Trejo briefly appears to say Danny Trejo things and make Danny Trejo faces. At 80-90 minutes, we've got an entertaining DTV followup in an entertaining franchise; at damn near two hours, we've got an overblown welcome overstayer, unrated footage be damned.

    Death Race: Beyond Anarchy - Blu-Ray Review:

    Death Race: Beyond Anarchy comes to Universal Blu-ray (with DVD and Digital Download) in a 1.78:1 transfer that looks solid, with deep blacks and some nice, crispy detail. The main audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that's as overdone as the film; with tons of surrounds, heavy bass, and blasting blastiness throughout. No distortion was present, and dialogue was clear and balanced nicely. Lossy French and Spanish options are also available, as are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.

    First up in the Bonus Features section is Inside The Anarchy (5:50) that features producers, actors, and Director John Michael Paul describing The Sprawl and what it means, as well as chatting about the cars used, interspersed with on-set footage.

    Time Served: Lists & Goldberg (3:01) features Frederick Koehler and Danny Trejo discussing their roles in the films, being the two most recurring characters.

    On The Streets of Death Race: Beyond Anarchy (2:45) is a brief look at the cars in the film (with a little repetition from the Inside The Anarchy featurette), with an introduction to some of the stunt crew.

    Finally, a Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Don Michael Paul and Star Zach McGowan is provided.
    The two interact pretty frequently about films that they both love, Roger Corman, the "punk-metal feel" of the film, and also describe what's happening on the screen. There's a fair amount of talking here, so worth the listen for fans of the film.


    Death Race: Beyond Anarchy - The Final Word:

    I think that cutting the movie substantially, including some of the stuff that looks like it was put in just to warrant having "Unrated" stamped on the cover, would have really helped this movie out. At almost two hours, though, Death Race: Beyond Anarchy is too much of a time commitment for the subject matter.

    Click on the images below for full sized Death Race: Beyond Anarchy Blu-ray screen caps!
































    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      You're officially in charge of reviewing any other Death Race movies that are made and sent in for review.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Hahaha, this one is a little long.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      They're stopping by to see the Shit Blow Up Show, with special guests lesbians and boobs and slow-motion combustion.
      That would be me. I guess this one's a buy. Thanks Mark
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Haha, one man's trash.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      I really enjoyed this one and didn't find it long at all. Heck I was surprised it ran almost two hours because it was fast paced in my eyes.

      I like all the films in Universal's remake series so I'm game for more.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Glad you liked it! I don't have a lot of patience for music video stuff, and that's what this one came across as. The unrated content seemed to be interjected just for padding; that shower scene was neither hot nor not awkward haha.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I tuned in for the "Shit Blow Up Show" but found so much more. It had the requisite boobs, brawlin', cars and explosions but I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I didn't get caught up in the validity of the govt/corporation's actions, I was just fine taking that stuff at face value. If you are watching a film called Death Race 4 you have to concede something if you are in it for a good time, and I've learned not to get twisted around the axles over the plausibility of an action film's MacGuffin. More importantly I greatly enjoyed the casting. The mysterious stranger of few words is my favorite type of movie character and Zach McGowan played this one to perfection. Just as important, the villain, Frankenstein is well done. What surprised me is how smart the film is with playing with how I felt about the characters. !!!POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!! The awkward shower scene and Frank's graphic sex scene told us a lot about each character and IMO both are important. The shower scene shows us our hero isn't just here to exploit people and have a good time. It sets him up as someone we can root for to take over leadership of the sprawl. And until Frank's sex scene, he had won me over and I was ready to root him on. While I wasn't completely surprised by the ending, its not a typical or straight forward. I found it very thrilling.

      Death Race: Beyond Anarchy is head and shoulders better than the DTV stuff getting released. Its firmly planted in my action movie rotation with classics like Commando, Predator, Rambo, Under Siege, Blood Sport, Transporter 2 and films like them.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jason C View Post
      I tuned in for the "Shit Blow Up Show" but found so much more. It had the requisite boobs, brawlin', cars and explosions but I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I didn't get caught up in the validity of the govt/corporation's actions, I was just fine taking that stuff at face value. If you are watching a film called Death Race 4 you have to concede something if you are in it for a good time, and I've learned not to get twisted around the axles over the plausibility of an action film's MacGuffin. More importantly I greatly enjoyed the casting. The mysterious stranger of few words is my favorite type of movie character and Zach McGowan played this one to perfection. Just as important, the villain, Frankenstein is well done. What surprised me is how smart the film is with playing with how I felt about the characters. !!!POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!! The awkward shower scene and Frank's graphic sex scene told us a lot about each character and IMO both are important. The shower scene shows us our hero isn't just here to exploit people and have a good time. It sets him up as someone we can root for to take over leadership of the sprawl. And until Frank's sex scene, he had won me over and I was ready to root him on. While I was completely surprised by the ending, its not a typical or straight forward. I found it very thrilling.

      Death Race: Beyond Anarchy is head and shoulders better than the DTV stuff getting released. Its firmly planted in my action movie rotation with classics like Commando, Predator, Rambo, Under Siege, Blood Sport and films like them.
      Yikes. I guess differing opinions make the world go round. Anyway, while I admit that the average person watching these is going to take stuff at face value, reviewing it, I'm critical of just about every aspect of it. Anyway, glad you enjoyed it, and didn't avoid it because of the review; I feel like it's a billion miles away from the classics you mentioned, though. I did enjoy the first film (remake) immensely.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I greatly appreciate your review Mark. Very well done. Without it I never would have given the film a shot. I didn't watch parts 2 or 3 and its not like me jump into the middle or end of a series like that.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jason C View Post
      I greatly appreciate your review Mark. Very well done. Without it I never would have given the film a shot. I didn't watch parts 2 or 3 and its not like me jump into the middle or end of a series like that.
      I remember the second one being okay, considering that they had to do something different than the first; and they did. Oh, and it had Sean Bean in it. And thanks for the nice words.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I have apparently reviewed all of the newer Death Race films on this site. Weird.