DEATH RACE 2
The basic dictum for Death Race 2 has been to serve up what went before but slightly differently. Luke Gosss jailed driver is cut from the same block as the tough, individualistic shaven-headed loner that Jason Statham played in the original. Lauren Cohan is another version of Joan Allens tough, power-skirted warden in the original although cast about thirty years younger (a former Miss Universe who was blacklisted for sleeping with all five judges in one of the more amusing lines) so that the film can now have Cohan trying to seduce the hero and others. The film starts out with the Death Race being hand-to-hand combat before the idea of car races is introduced, whereupon the latter third of the film becomes an essential repeat of the original amid much motorised mayhem.
Death Race 2 has generic direct-to-dvd sequel written over it. There is little in the handling of the aspects recycled from the original or the new elements that it any way distinguishes it. Certainly, in the initial scenes, Dutch born director Roel Reiné, a rising name in low-budget action films throughout the 00s, distinguishes himself during the bank robbery getaway with a particularly slick and exciting car chase sequence where he shows an accomplished hand with the shots of cars skidding in slow-motion and of Luke Goss turning to pose in the midst of gunfire and walking away from explosions in slow-motion. The films other plus is the presence of Luke Goss, an actor who has played various tough guys and villains in a variety of supporting roles throughout the 00s, even turned up as the monster in the tv mini-series Frankenstein (2004), and finally seems to be earning his leading man status here. With well-buffed 61 frame, Goss certainly has the physique for an action movie hero. He also has a penetratingly intense charisma and ability to act as well as move. One sees no particular problem why he should not be inheriting more of the roles that Jason Statham (an actor who has far less acting ability in ones opinion) is unavailable for in future.
On a story level, Death Race 2 adds little the original was so forgettable that it is hard to say if there was any fans out there who were burning to have their questions answered about how the Death Race came about or who Frankenstein was. Even then, Death Race 2 only answers these in the most routine and schematic way. After getting to the set-up of the Death Race, it then copies the first film in almost all of its moves. At this point, the action movie style that Roel Reiné demonstrated in the earlier scenes gets lost amidst generic car chase sequences. The climactic requirement that hero Luke Goss not triumph but instead be burned alive in a car crash and then resurrected as a monosyllabic, metal-masked monster is the reversal of all expectations that action movie heroism draws on. The film does try to compensate with an upbeat tone where the various villains of the show (Lauren Cohan, Sean Bean, the traitor among the pit crew) are despatched in a series of contrived circumstances.
Death Race 3: Inferno (2012) was a further sequel, also from director Roel Reiné and featuring Luke Goss, Danny Trejo and many of the cast from this film. Roger Corman subsequently went on to produce the upcoming Death Race (2017) independent of this series.
Roel Reiné began making films with an action bent in the Netherlands and entered genre material with his third effort Drifter (2008), going onto the other genre likes of Deadwater (2008), The Lost Tribe (2010), The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012), Dead in Tombstone (2013), The Condemned 2 (2015), The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (2015) and Hard Target 2 (2016). He has also produced the low-budget horror films Blackwater Valley Exorcism (2006), Brutal (2007), Bear (2010) and Wolf Town (2010).