Roger Corman attempts to recapture lighting in a bottle with this remake of Death Race 2000. Same plot and characters and satirical nature. There's a lot more CGI, less impressive stunt work and a less imposing star line up - no David Carradine, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Sly Stallone, Roberta Collins, Charles Griffith...
It tries to recapture the spirit of the original - there's anarchy and black humour. The cast try their best - some of them are quite good, such as Marci Miller (a lot more animated here than on Days of Our Lives), Malcolm McDowell is always reliable. I liked the driver who had sex with her car and was disappointed when she was killed early off. But it simply isn't as well made.
The editing is frantic, full of jagged cuts, as if afraid the viewers will get bored if they're forced to endure a scene or shot too long. We never get close to any of the characters, not really. They try with Frankenstein (a Kiwi, Manu Bennett formerly of Piaradise Beach!) and Annie (Miller) but these scenes don't really fly. They're also oddly shot with this glary light off the actor's faces.
The story kind of follows the original - but they needlessly complicate it. There's this audience member who participates in the race via virtual reality through Miller - which kind of cheapens the emotion in the Miller-Bennett scenes - but he's never really paid off. I guess he does participate in the uprising at the end but it's not very satisfying. The original had a clear plot line where the drivers were being bumped off by the rebellion; there's a little of that here, but the killing is also done by Tammy the Terrorist - a subplot that doesn't go anywhere. As a result it all feels a bit of a mess and t the end when Bennett/Frankenstein tells the audience to make their own reality, I was annoyed and felt like yelling back "simplify your narrative line".
It's not that satisfying as an action movie either - those short cuts mean we never get a good look at some cool car action. There's certainly little suspense or tension - it's more loud and frantic.
It's also curiously prudish for an exploitation film. The first movie had Roberta Collins, Mary Woronov and Simone Griffeth in the buff, and the characters enjoyed sex; David Carradine slept with Griffeth early on. Here there's some breasts, but Burt Grinstead's character doesn't want to sleep with his female co driver and Bennett turns down Miller until the very end. The men have low sex drives here.
The look of the film is kind of ugly more than cool. The scenes set in the modern day with everyone hooked on TV are depressing.
It tries. I wanted to like it. But it's a mess.