It has been far too long since I got a brand new Roger Corman movie on DVD, but that changes today. Ok, ok…technically it was the 17th but I get to watch and review the movie today. Now the original Death Race 2000 is one of my favorite Roger Corman movies for it’s sheer over-the-top style and satire. It did get a big budget remake a while back, it lacked some of the elements that made the original so memorable. Let’s see how good today’s movie, Death Race 2050, is compared to the original.
The plot: In the year 2050, the UCA (United Corporations of America) has become overpopulated by a completely lazy society. The Chairman of the UCA hosts a sporting competition called the Death Race, where drivers race cross country from Nueva York (New York) to Los Angeles and try to kill as many pedestrians as possible, as a means of population control. As the competition is about to begin, announcers JB and Grace Trickle introduce and attempt interviews with the 5 drivers; Tammy the Terrorist (who placed a bomb in the stands that kills 17 people before the race), Minerva Jefferson (a hip hop star competing in her first Death Race), ABE (an AI that has been programmed with the rules for the race), Jed Perfectus (a genetically engineered athlete who is jealous of the reigning champion), and Frankenstein (the reigning champion). As he gets in his car, Frankenstein meets his navigator, Annie Sullivan, who is equipped with a virtual reality broadcaster so that the audience can see what she sees via virtual reality. After the racers are lined up, the Chairman, via a large virtual reality projection over the stadium, starts the race and the drivers leave New York. As they are driving, Jed knocks Frankenstein off course and Frankenstein ignores Annie’s suggestion to back up, choosing to drive off a broken freeway ramp to get back on course. When Jed tries to knock Frankenstein off a cliff into the ocean, Frankenstein dodges him and Jed is forced to tow his car to safety while trying to seek adulation from the virtual audience. Meanwhile, Frankenstein takes off his mask, which surprises Annie but he says the mask is merely a gimmick and tells her to not distract him from racing. At his headquarters, the Chairman is upset about Frankenstein taking off his mask. Tammy is in the lead, as the judges decided to award her points for the kills from her pre-race bomb. Meanwhile, former broadcaster Alexis Hamilton has formed a band of rebels and plans on killing the racers in the death race. Minerva attempts to catch up to Tammy by getting her fans out on the street so she can run them over but Tammy cuts her off and kills them herself, increasing her lead. Meanwhile, Annie attempts to interview Frankenstein but he turns the interview around to ask her questions. Annie directs him to a school, where the teachers and parents place injured and crippled kids in the street but Frankenstein goes around them and kills the parents and administrators instead, catching up to Tammy’s lead. Meanwhile, Abe is attacked by the rebels and manages to kill them but malfunctions and kills his proxy/creator, then drives off to discover himself. The remaining racers make it to the checkpoint and give interviews, though Frankenstein ignores the reporters. In Washington DC (formerly Dubai), the Chairman talks with some important people and talks about dropping his support of Frankenstein, who he feels is getting too popular, and supporting Jed instead, believing he will be better suited for his purposes. Meanwhile, Frankenstein makes repairs to his cyborg parts while Annie is in the shower, where she receives a message from Hamilton. Hamilton says they need to kill Frankenstein that night and Annie attempts to seduce him but he ignores her attempts. The next day, the race takes them through America’s Heartland, where the residents tend to shoot back against the racers. Jed shoots Frankenstein’s car with a harpoon and tow cable, and Annie is forced to climb back and unhook them, while Frankenstein tries to avoid getting her killed. Meanwhile, Minerva ends up being attacked by some of the people but gets away, then kills Tammy’s followers in retaliation for Tammy killing her fans the day before. Some of Tammy’s followers attempt to kill Minerva with suicide vests and manage to kill her proxy but Minerva escapes. Annie leads Frankenstein to a rebel trap and when his car gets stuck, he is attacked by ninjas. JB wants to stop the camera feed but the Chairman tells him to keep it rolling, then gets upset when Frankenstein kills the ninjas. Getting back in his car, Frankenstein picks up Annie, who threatens to kill him but he easily disarms her. He then has her put the camera back on as he kills the last of the rebels in the area. When they reach the checkpoint, Frankenstein tells Annie he knew she was part of the resistance from the start but was curious to see how things turned out. Annie says that the people would follow him so he could lead them against the Chairman but Frankenstein says he doesn’t want to lead, he just wants to drive off into the sunset and he thought about having someone go with him. Annie leaves the room and heads down to the bar, where she ends up talking to Minerva, who reveals she was educated by her father and just plays her character in order to survive. Meanwhile, Jed breaks into Frankenstein’s room and begins fighting with him, eventually pinning his arm to the wall with a harpoon but Annie saves Frankenstein before Jed can kill him. Later, Frankenstein is sitting on the roof and Annie talks with him and says that she is joining his team. In Washington DC, the Chairman reveals that he has been working with Hamilton and pitting the networks and the resistance against each other. On the third day, the racers take off and, due to the damage in his arm, Annie is forced to shift gears for Frankenstein. Realizing that she has no chance of winning the race, Minerva decides to take out Tammy but Tammy arms her proxy with a suicide vest and pushes him out of the car, causing Minerva to crash. As Tammy gets out to taunt the dying Minerva, ABE reappears and crashes into Tammy then self destructs, killing them both. Frankenstein and Annie are attacked by Hamilton and the resistance but manage to kill all of them. Meanwhile, Jed had been given a map of the safe routes and is on his way to the finish line and is basking in the adulation of his small group of fans. Frankenstein asks Annie if she wants to just leave the race but she convinces him to finish it, as the winner gets to meet the Chairman. When Jed sees Frankenstein, he has his proxy, Eve, drive while he tries fighting Frankenstein while on top of his car but after Frankenstein fends him off, Jed takes back control of his car only to end up crashing over a cliff and into the TV studio, killing JB and Grace. Frankenstein reaches the finish line, then has Annie put on the camera so he can address the VR audience. Frankenstein tells the audience that the Chairman is worth 1000 points and questions whether he should kill him and after doing so, to the fans delight, he convinces them to turn off the VR system and compete in their own race. The fans begin to riot and erupt in chaos, Frankenstein and Annie watch from a distant hilltop and figure out what their next move is.
Nothing is going to top the original, but this movie does a much better job of catching the spirit of the movie than the 2008 remake did. The acting was pretty good, with Manu Bennett (Frankenstein) and Malcolm McDowell (Chairman) doing a great job in their roles, while Yancy Butler (Hamilton), Marci Miller (Annie), and Burt Grinstead (Jed) doing good in their roles as well. The story was almost exactly like the original movie, with some minor changes made to it. In fact, that was probably my only complaint about the movie is that it really seemed exactly like the original movie instead of a new movie. I did like that the two announcers were almost exactly like Junior Bruce and Grace Pander from the original (even their names were pretty much the same) Some of the pedestrian kills from the original were redone here as well, such as Frankenstein swerving to avoid the victims left in the street for him and choosing to kill the people on the side instead. The political satire was also good, with the Chairman basically being a parody of Donald Trump. The special effects were pretty good, being as overly cheesy as you would hope they would be. A lot of fun to watch and a good retelling of a classic Corman movie.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5