Death Race 2050 Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Manu Bennett, Malcolm McDowell, Marci Miller
  • Director: G.J. Echternkamp
  • Writers: G.J. Echternkamp, Max Yamashita
  • Producer: Roger Corman
  • Film Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: January 17, 2017
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018

        Despite being made in 2008, Paul W.S. Anderson’s reboot of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 was more prequel than remake or sequel, setting the vulgar racing action inside the world of a prison. In Death Race and its two straight-to-video sequels, the racing was a way for convicts to earn a pardon and release from their prison sentence, but the latest entry into the franchise jumps forward in time, while simultaneously returning back to the original premise of Corman’s Death Race 2000. In Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050, the drivers are no longer made up of convicts, and once again there is an emphasis on the murdering of pedestrians rather than winning the race or killing each other.

        Death Race 2050 also sees a return to truly low budget filmmaking, as well as shocking social commentary. This means some over-the-top satire amidst poor special effects, with a blatant effort to take aim at Donald Trump with the depiction of a comb-over dictator running the race, played by the legendary Malcolm McDowell. Lazily constructed and sloppily executed, Death Race 2050 doesn’t even try to be a good film, but that doesn’t prevent it from feeling relevant and occasionally entertaining.   

        The latest installment of Death Race brings back the mysterious driving champion and fan-favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), whose fourth incarnation through different actors has previously been explained by the hiding of his identity behind a mask. In this film, there is no need for explanation. All that really seems to matter is the excessive violence and what the dystopian society seems to suggest about the future of America. The United States of America has become The United Corporations of America, and most of the country lives in poverty, placated by the drug of entertainment not unlike the one depicted in David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” While Wallace’s book featured years that were sponsored, Death Race 2050 has states that are named after the products that presumably own them.

        At the center of the satire of American life, however, is McDowell’s portrayal of The Chairman, a top government official with obvious correlation to our soon-to-be president, Donald Trump. He is vulgar, vain, greedy, and sports a ridiculous comb-over hairstyle that isn’t fooling anyone. The only thing missing from the depiction is an over-reliance on social media and tiny hands. Frankenstein works for The Chairman, but begins to revolt against the dictator during the race, resulting in intervening assassins as a ridiculous excuse to stage some of the action outside of the cars.

        A majority of the action takes place behind the wheel, but the cars rarely interact with each other as much as they simply mow down civilians unlucky enough to get in their way. There are few actual stunts with the cars, which either look like poorly made props or badly executed CGI, depending on the shot. As a result, the cars drive alongside each other but don’t have the same combative relationship as some of the past films in the franchise. Death Race 2050 is a different type of low budget from the original film, mostly relying on cheap laboratory special effects rather than the creative practical ones utilized in the original.

        The Blu-ray release of Death Race 2050 includes a DVD and Digital HD copy of the film. Special features on the actual disc are a 10-minute making-of featurette, which includes interviews with Corman and key cast/crew members. “The Look of 2050” examines the costume choices for the dystopian world, as well as the decision to shoot the film in South America, while “Cars! Cars! Cars!” predictably examines the vehicles of the movie. Somewhat redundantly, “Cast Car Tours” continues the examination of these vehicles, adding the cast members each is attached to. There are also a handful of deleted scenes.   

Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 3/10
Historical Significance:  4/10
Special Features: 4/10

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