Review: Death Race – Inferno / Cert: 18 / Director: Roel Reiné / Screenplay: Tony Giglio / Starring: Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Tanit Phoenix, Dougray Scott / Release Date: February 4th
The spirit of Mad Max hangs over this third instalment in the Death Race franchise: churning dust, crazy wheels and bone-shaking stunts. Death Race 2 was a prequel to Paul W.S. Anderson's 2010 remake of the Roger Corman cult classic, and this one follows straight on where that left off. Both concern themselves with the origin of the Death Race game and its seemingly indestructible star, Frankenstein. It's one of those had-to-happen, no-brainer ideas, and it powers this stripped-down muscle car of a movie very nicely, with juice to spare.
This time round, the race has come under new management, in the guise of slimy Dragons' Den reject Dougray Scott, and the scene shifts to the Kalahari desert for some gruelling off-road action. Luckily, Frankenstein (Goss) still has his ever-reliable pit crew to back him up, as well as his lovely co-pilot, Katrina (the wonderfully smouldering Tanit Phoenix in what is surely a breakout role, and we're not just talking about her swelling cleavage). Although – crowd-pleasing moment, this – she has to fight for the right to ride shotgun in a to-the-death cage-battle with a bunch of other dolly birds who want the same thing and are prepared to stab, kick and axe murder in order to get it.
Tony Giglio's script has a few bits that creak and clunk but generally serves its purpose, keeping the story focused around a number of grandstanding races that weave through scrub, sand and flyblown townships (great use is made of some gritty South African locations). Danny Trejo seems totally exhausted by the effort of remembering his lines and hefting the occasional socket wrench, but Scott gives good wicked leers, Ving Rhames pops up briefly to twirl a cigar and Luke Goss – who put in such sterling work in key supporting roles in Blade 2 and Hellboy 2 – is a solid leading man with a steely Lee Van Cleef squint.
But you want to hear about the stunts. The stunts are very cool. With just a few slashes of CGI gore for extra colour, they're choreographed and shot with a raw, in-your-grill punchiness that George Miller wouldn't be embarrassed by, and each and every moment of them is captured in pristine detail on this HD transfer. Those who feel the need for speed and are smitten by collisions won't be disappointed. And when you've finished the main feature, there are some decent extras, including a slick 'making of', a chat with Trejo about his time in chokey and a behind-the-scenes which gives you more info on the film's four-wheeled stars and the artful bodgers who cobbled them together. All in all, this is a release with plenty under the hood to keep you amused, and it's just the thing to help you wind down after a long sesh on Gran Turismo.
Extras: Commentary with the director / Deleted scenes / The Making of Death Race: Inferno / Racing For Death / Art Imitating Life: Goldberg / Alternate opening