There have been three Death Race movies, none of them particularly successful. Now there’s a fourth one. Does it deliver? Is it a bomb? One thing’s certain. I love every second of it.
Time to admit something. I write movie reviews about smart movies. But honestly, I do enjoy movies as a whole. This includes the stupid films of Michael Bay whose Transformers films I always go see at the movies with plenty of beer and at a cynical friend or two. The latest Fast and Furious film? I’m there, even though every single last thing about it looks profoundly stupid.
And you know what? Invariably, I have a great time watching these films. I think they deserve their money and at the very least, they’re not boring.
Then there’s the things I just have mad love for that never make it to cinemas, such as the Death Race movies. Being a sucker for some great movie stunts, stunt driving and racing, these movies seem like they’ve been made for me. If I listen to many a movie critic friend, I would guess they were made for me exclusively.
Enter «Death Race 4 – Beyond Anarchy». Because the first three Death Races were apparently successful enough to warrant one more sequel.
This time around, everything is different.
What Happened to the Prison Racing?
In «Death Race 4 – Beyond Anarchy», there’s a place named The Sprawl which is a prison, but kind of its own country, too. It’s got its own economy and everything. This, of course, displeases the warden (Cameron Jack, who is very good at looking like Liev Schreiber) and he wants the illegal Death Race done and over with.
Now here’s the first question: In a lawless part of the country, The Sprawl, how is it that there suddenly are laws?
Either way, The Sprawl’s best racer, Frankenstein, is also a bit of a nuisance, what with him being more popular than the warden. Or something. Therefore, the warden sends in an elite soldier person named Connor Gibson (Zach McGowan) to stop Frankenstein (Velislav Pavlov). For that, of course, Connor has to qualify for the Death Race and then win it, because that will somehow crush Frankenstein’s regime. A regime, mind you, that is so successful and cunning that it has international broadcast deals as well as international supply routes for car parts. The latter are run by the character of Lists (Fred Koehler), a mainstay of the Death Race Series and Goldberg (Danny Trejo).
So, I would be guessing, toppling this regime is not something done with the ease of winning one hard-to-win race.
Still, our merry band of rebels and other assorted scum have decided that this is what they want to do and therefore we get a movie. Also, a romantic subplot involving a character named Jane (Christine Marzano) that comes and goes as the plot sees fit.
Why Stupid is Awesome
This movie is stupid, beyond a doubt. Not only does it not understand anarchy as a concept or anything else for that matter, I doubt it actually wants to be smart. Because this is the perfect movie for a Sunday afternoon.
What makes this movie so enjoyable is not the story or its inevitable outcome, but the style in which it was made. Death Race 4 has a hard R-Rating, showing, among other things, full frontal female nudity and scenes that might as well be found in porn. There’s also gratuitous violence and a lot of very impressive stunt work.
And montages. Because the plot is so thin, there’s a montage for everything at least once. Build a car? Montage! Race day? At least one montage. Enter a bar? Montage. Romantic date things? Montage. Sometimes, they’re kind of off the mark ever so slightly, but the mood these montages want to convey works. Take the image on top for example, it’s clear that director Don Michael Paul wants to get a center shot, but he’s just a wee bit off the mark.
This forces the crew to prioritize style over substance and as such, Death Race 4 – Beyond Anarchy manages to craft a certain mood that can only be found in stupid movies. You’re wholly engrossed in them, while being fully disenfranchised from anything currently happening on screen. It’s quite weird.
But, man, is it fun.
How can you not love a movie that has a character named Nazi Bastard (Velizar Peev) driving a truck in a race where race cars compete? Or a woman named Matilda the Hun (Jasette Amos, a nice throwback to the very first Death Race from all the way back in 1975) racing in a school bus? They’re set against a backdrop of society-compatible metal music and half-naked jugglers on unicycles. I’m not making any of this up.
This movie lives off or eyecandy, of style of production design made on a shoestring budget and boobs. So many boobs. Everywhere.
But that’s the movie’s biggest strength. Where other movies would try to go all grimdark and serious, Death Race is of the kind of movie that just rolls with it, builds a few crazy cars and has some really good stunt driving, some crazy and unpractical postapocalyptic costumes, some naked women and a surprising amount of practical effects. Now film the entire thing somewhere in the former Eastern Bloc – Bulgaria in the case of Death Race 4 – and you’ve got yourself a fairly amazing film. It’s not completely without ambition, but completely devoid of any and all depth.
So you have the delightfully chiseled racer and his rowdy navigator go up against a dictator in a car race. Hahaha! I love it.
Bonus: The Death Race 4: Beyond Anarchy Soundtrack
If you’re wondering who can be found on the soundtrack of Death Race 4: Beyond Anarchy, here’s a list:
- «A Former Life» – This Burning Day
- «If you feel the same» – This Burning Day
- «Light it up» – Killingsworth
- «War» – Sick Puppies
- «One More Road to Cross» – DMX
- «What Difference Does it Make» – Brain and Melissa
- «Giraffe 1» – Brain and Melissa
- «Piece by Piece» – Brain and Melissa
- «My Name is Human» – Highly Suspect