The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Death Race 3: Inferno aka Death Race: Inferno (2012)
When last we visited the Death Race series, we were on prequel 1, Death Race 2. That one I thought would've been good had it not been for the nausea inducing split-second MTV edits that gave me a migraine. Part of me went into this one, the sequel to the prequel, even more apprehensive. That 105-minute running time didn't help. Also, our buddy at Explosive Action did this one too, so you can go there to see what he says about it.
Death Race 3 takes place after part 2. Luke Goss is back as Frankenstein, and he's one Death Race win away from his freedom. Problem is, owner Ving Rhames sells the rights to tycoon Dougray Scott, which should be an awesome thing for Rhames because he's cashing in, but I guess he feels like he lost to Scott,or something, which makes no sense to me either. Anyway, Scott isn't down with this whole let Frankenstein go thing, so he tells him he'll kill him or something if he wins the next Death Race, which is a three-day affair in South Africa, across the desert, even though the racers return back to the prison at the end of each leg, so it's not really across the desert, just three out and backs. Now Goss needs some help from his friends if he's going to take the evil Dougray Scott down.
Wow, where do we begin? The shaky-cam MTV edits thing from the last one is worse in this one. Man, can I just say, I love watching a movie I can't see. I love not being able to focus on anything for more than half a second. From an action standpoint, we had a few good chases with some sweet crashes, and in those moments, I wanted to temper my bad review; but then we had three fight scenes that I couldn't focus on either, which was really frustrating-- again, I love being frustrated by my movies. Story-wise, I don't what we're doing here. We had too many racers-- actually, too many for the movie too, because they had this battle royale between the women navigators, where 14 (or 16, I don't remember, and it doesn't matter) fought to the death for 10 spots with ten racers, only to have 11 racers race-- but it was hard to keep track, and with the constant jump cuts, and all the characters and cars being similar and unremarkable, I couldn't make sense of anything. Then Rhames sells the rights to Death Race to Dougray Scott, makes money on the deal, but now wants revenge on him? Will the guy who sold Tumblr to Yahoo want revenge on Yahoo now after he personally made $250 million on the deal? I don't know, this was a hot mess with a few nice crash scenes in it.
I watched the original Death Race 2000 for comparison to this one. First off, I love the idea that an improvement on the original was making it so we can't see it. "You know what I didn't like about that old one that I really want to improve? The fact that it didn't involve rapid jumpcuts. Seriously, you're not making a movie unless you're giving your audience a headache." The original also had compelling characters. Not only Frankenstein, but Stallone as the main heel was great, as was David Carradine's navigator. Here, for the heel we had a guy that looked like a cross between Colin Hay and Danny Bonaduce, who had like three lines and did barely anything heelish, unlike Stallone; for the navigator we had Tanit Phoenix who, outside of a brief moment where she wields a flamethrower, does nothing but show off her cleavage and have silly romantic moments with Goss that were grafted in, all of it a total waste of her character. Also, the original was almost 30 minutes shorter, yet covered much more ground from a story standpoint. That one had the whole dystopian future, the rebels, and then the mysterious Frankenstein character. We had none of that here, the best they could do was the Dougray hostile takeover that didn't make any sense. This is not mere nostalgia factor rearing its head again, the original really did do a better job at making their movie than this one did.
In the last film Ving Rhames made up for a lot of that film's shortcomings, but unfortunately here he wasn't in it enough to do that. As always, he's splashed across the cover, making it a sweet Rhames bait-and-switch. I understand maybe you couldn't get Rhames to shoot for the whole thing, and maybe you didn't want to wait for him to be more available, but that's when you show some integrity and put Dougray Scott on the cover instead. I guess that's too much to ask though from a movie that's apparently so bad the people making it don't want us to actually see it, instead inundating us with rapid jumpcuts. I wonder if the whole film is just cardboard boxes and tarps and the jumpcuts make it so we couldn't see that. If so, I hope they recycled all that after.
Danny Trejo had a little more screentime than Rhames, which was good, and I think his character was a little better than the last time, but it wasn't a great Trejo style character anyway. I've noticed that for Trejo to work, he really needs a bigger part, even as a supporting character, it can't be a few lines here or there. Like in Recoil he was the main baddie, or in Machete he was the hero, he had a lot of room to work, and we got the full effect of what Trejo can do. I think that's because he's kind of a reductive actor, he's said himself that he likes to say his lines in as few words as possible. If he has a lot of screentime, he can make up for that in his presence, but in a few jumpcuts, we lose him and he might as well be anyone else-- though I guess not for him, because he gets a paycheck when he's in the movie. Anyway, co-star Fred Koehler gets a hug from Trejo at the end of the film, and I was thinking that had to be a career highlight for him. I would love to get an on-screen hug from Danny Trejo.
Here we have Tanit Phoenix as a total badass wielding a flamethrower (I noticed Explosive Action liked the same scene and captured the same image). That's pretty much it for female badassery though, which was a disappointment. With Phoenix, it's pretty much her cleavage and waiting to see what Goss will do next, not at all like the great navigator Frankenstein gets in Death Race 2000 who is trying to undermine Frankenstein as he drives because she works with the rebels. Why not have her do something more, especially if you're going to hit us with that flamethrower scene to start. We also had the producer of the show, who was played by Hlubi Mboya. She was really good too, but she's really just playing second fiddle to Scott and Rhames; better though than the way the strong woman in the last film was dealt with, with her getting run over and Rhames saying "dumb bitch", which was not a good look. They tried to include Olga Braun as a tribute to the original, but even that fell flat, with her just making a rookie mistake and getting killed as a result. It's funny how this has worked out, that the original was made 37 years before this one, yet we've seen the imagery regarding women grow less progressive, not more. That's not a good sign. Maybe the next one will make up for all of that and have Michelle Rodriguez as Frankenstein. How kickass would that be?
So that's it, outside of a few nice car crashes and explosions, this is pretty much a blah fest. Probably a good 30 minutes too long, and in 105 minutes, the average shot was probably only a half a second long. What a mess. Is this what the action movie had become? I need to sit through 100 minutes of bad jumpcuts and crap to see five minutes of good car chases in a movie about a car race?
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1988591/