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Death Race 3: Inferno (2012)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/22/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/23/2013
The world of direct-to-video sequels is an interesting one. First of all, the company is clearly looking to make money off of a familiar property. Secondly, they want to give the public what it wants, which means that they will deliver a movie which is similar to the others in the series. (There are exceptions to this rule, such as the wacky Night of the Demons 2.) We've reached the point where these movies are to be expected, and yet, we don't expect much from them. Many rent them out of curiosity and come away disappointed. I went into Death Race 3: Inferno expecting little and was surprised that the movie was at least trying to break the mold.
Death Race 3: Inferno is a direct sequel to 2010's Death Race 2 which was a prequel to 2008'sDeath Race -- which was in turn based on the 1975 film Death Race 2000. (Got it?) As the film opens, Niles York (Dougray Scott) helms a hostile takeover of the company owned by Weyland (Ving Rhames), which includes Terminal Island prison and the Death Race franchise. Death Race is an immensely popular television show where prison inmates race weaponized vehicles to the death. If a driver can win five races, they win their freedom. York's first move is the move Death Race to the Kalahari prison in South Africa. There, he stages a three-day race through the desert, as opposed to the enclosed track at Terminal Island. He approaches famed driver Frankenstein AKA Luke Lucas (Luke Goss), who has won four races, and informs him that he has no intention of losing his star and that Frankenstein will continue to race, but he will not win. Frankenstein does not share this with his crew -- Katrina (Tanit Phoenix), Goldberg (Danny Trejo), and Lists (Fred Koehler) -- who also don't know that Luke, who they believe to be dead, is Frankenstein. As the grueling and deadly race begins, York becomes obsessed with the blood and violence. However, secrets will be revealed and Frankenstein is developing a plan for revenge.
I found Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race to be a pretty ludicrous movie which involved basically no story and a race which literally resembled a more violent version of Mario Kart. Now, I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I have not seen Death Race 2. So, coming into Death Race 3: Inferno cold, I didn't understand that the action was actually taking place before Death Race. Also, given the fact that this was the second sequel to a movie which wasn't very good to begin with and couldn't even have the decency to sort of rip-off the movie on which is was based, I has very low expectations for Death Race 3: Inferno.
And at the outset, those low expectations were fulfilled. (Is that the correct way to phrase that?) Once the takeover by York is established, the action moves to the wilds of South Africa, and it's not long before the race begins. As the key characters should have been familiar to those who saw Death Race 2, the movie spends little time re-introducing them. (It's interesting to note that the deleted scenes contain additional footage from the film's beginning.) The movie really seemed to be moving in the wrong direction with the scene in which a group of women must fight to the death to see who gets to be navigators in the race. Once the race starts, the other racers are introduced video game style, but they are simply given personality traits, as opposed to being actual characters. The race includes the requisite wrecks and explosions, accompanied by shots of York enjoying the carnage.
However, the second half of the film surprised me by actually showing some creativity. For example, the race travels through several South African townships, and there they are met by protesters and criminals who want to stop the race. This may seem like a small thing, but as this version of the race poses a threat to the public, it's a nice touch. There are also a few good one-liners. However, the biggest surprise comes with the film's surprise ending, which actually goes backwards The Usual Suspects-style to show us how it all came together. Sure, it's all very elaborate and convoluted, but it also show that someone wanted Death Race 3: Inferno to do a little something to separate itself from the pack. I can honestly say that more thought went into this crazy finale than all of the first film. In addition, Director Roel Reine delivers a good amount of kinetic action to the movie and the race scenes are very well-shot. (The bottom line here is that the movie rarely looks cheap.)
Death Race 3: Inferno is a tough nut to crack. In many ways, it is just another direct-to-video sequel, as it delivers on the promise of mindless violence, a smattering of gore, cool cars, and hot women. So, those simply looking for a continuation of the Death Race franchise won't be disappointed. However, the ending will leave the casual viewer like myself feeling like they have just watched a movie which was better than it actually is.
Death Race 3: Inferno made me glad that the kid from Kate & Allie is still getting work on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. There is a smattering of grain on the image, but it's clearly there to add to the "gritty" look of the movie. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright, even given the desert locations. The picture has a nice amount of detail and is never soft, and the depth is quite good, most notably in the landscape shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an powerful track which offers nearly constant surround and subwoofer effects. The surround effects bring the action scenes to life and provide detailed sound. The subwoofer effects border on being overwhelming, but certainly provide "oomph". The stereo effects are well-done as well and show good separation.
The Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Roel Reine. "The Making of Death Race 3: Inferno" (11 minutes) is sort of a fly-by featurette, as it touches on the story, Director Reine's style, the stunts, the cast, and the female fight scene. The piece includes a wealth of on-set footage and many comments from the cast and filmmakers. "Racing with Death" (6 minutes) explores the look and the design of the cars in the film and how they differ from the other films. "Art Imitating Life: Goldberg" (5 minutes) is an interview with Danny Trejo, who shares his background and how it lead to his career in films. Some of the other participants in the movie comment on what it's like to work with him. The "Alternate Opening" (5 minutes) does a better job of recapping the ending of Death Race 2 and would have been a big help for viewers like me who haven't seen the second film. The Disc contains nine DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes. This offers more scene from the first act, which I guess were excised to get to the action faster. The "Deleted Shots Montage" (5 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like -- a series of random moments which weren't seen in the movie.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.