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John’s DVD Round-Up

April 23, 2011

Hello all. Mark here. John has joined in on the DVD Round Up greatness. Today, he covers Faster and Death Race 2. Faster is a truly horid flick. Death Race 2…….is bad but better than it should be.

Enjoy! I agree with it all.

 John’s DVD Round-Up

 By John Leavengood

 One with the word “race” and the other with a highway in the background, these two movies imply automotive speed.  Neither deliver (speed nor highlight-worthy entertainment.

 Death Race 2 (2010)

 MY CALL:    I’m not gonna’ beat around the bush.  This movie wasn’t great.  But it didn’t totally suck either.   In fact, given that my expectations were low, this movie was actually a lot of fun.  It’s got some actors I like, serviceable action, and it weaves the story that led us to Jason Statham’s Death Race.  So give it a shot.  It’s not a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.  Just don’t make this movie the centerpiece of your weekend evening.  [C+]

WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD:    Death Race (2008), The Running Man, The Condemned, Undisputed (parts 1-3)

IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH:    Same movies as above.

      Let’s start by saying that I simply love movies that turn death row inmates into to-the-death tournament participants.  Add a game show element and I’m even more sold on the idea.  These movies are just plain fun.  I am also a fan of Luke Goss, who played the would-be vampire-reaper prince in Blade II, the supremely badass spear-fighting Prince Nuada in Hellyboy 2, and Frankenstein’s monster in the Frankenstein miniseries (that fact makes his choice for this movie interesting…hint, hint).  Also odd that out of those three movies and Death Race 2, three are sequels.

            This may be a sequel, but it also felt like a remake.  A big black dude who races a big pick-up truck is the main antagonist of an in-shape white dude with a shaved head who’s sweet on his she-inmate copilot; just like Tyrese and Jason Statham’s dynamic in the 2008 predecessor.  But that made it kind of fun.  Seeing Danny Trejo in Ian McShane’s role was also cool.  But, seeing Trejo is always cool as long as you don’t get fooled into watching Machete.  For some reason Sean Bean is in this, too.  I guess he squeezed it in before filming for Game of Thrones (new awesome series on HBO).

            This movie was straight-to-DVD, and rightfully so.  There’s not much to talk about regarding the plot and a LOT of the same elements from the first movie are used in this one…except for high-quality races!  They seem to be outright missing.  It is what it is: a rainy Sunday afternoon filler.


 MY CALL:    If you enjoy disliking Billy Bob Thornton, if you aren’t willing to give Dwayne Johnson another chance, or if you like movies with forced agendas, then you’ll probably like this.  It will confirm your notions.  I guess I’d watch it again, but it wouldn’t be “my call”.  The Rock really needs to get back to his Rundown roots.  I miss “that” Dwayne.  Instead of this, watch any of the other movies referenced below.  For the quintessential The Rock experience: the Rundown.

            This movie may be called Faster, but it felt unnecessarily rushed from the first minute.  The director was trying to make a point with this, but I found it more annoying than effective.  Thankfully it somewhat mellows out later.  Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) plays a big badass with a death wish hit list who displays complete reckless abandon from the moments he is released from prison.

            Someone on his hit list hires a hitman to take care of him.  The hitman is the kind of character we all find annoying, but presented in a way that made him fun to watch.  He’s a mountain-climbing, software millionaire, thrill-seeker who cares about executing the most difficult consecutive 10-move combination of yoga positions.  Just writing that yoga bit makes me want to punch him in the face after his little stretching session before he hits the juice bar!  This guy decides Dwayne is his new “highest peak”.  With an obvious relationship-hesitation and a lot of arrogance, he chats with his therapist while preparing for his hit.  A bit cliche…a la You Kill Me, Grosse Point Blank, Gunshy, The Professional.  We get it.  Hitmen have some social issues and personality quirks.

            The action is weak, but attempts are made to express brutality.  Just don’t expect the kind of fun fighting from The Rundown.  There were also two car chases and they were not so hot.  I yearn for more Gone in 60 Seconds and The Transporter, but I saw no such glimmers.  In all fairness, this didn’t feel like it was meant to be considered an action flick fueled by revenge (contrary to the trailer), but rather just a revenge flick.  It’s all attitude.  But this attitude isn’t really cutting it for me.

            They tried for an unexpected ending.

            I expected it.  I’m not saying it was blatantly obvious from the start, but when my hunches are serially confirmed by movies’ end, then I think those movies are more likely to be predictable than my guesses are consistently lucky.

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