I’ll be honest, I completely forgot Roel Reiné was going ahead with another Death Race after already presenting a horrid sequel (Death Race 2) to an averagely enjoyable B-Movie (Death Race), but low and behold here I am writing my review of Death Race 3: Boobs – um, I mean, Death Race 3: Inferno. Seriously though, I thought the above picture was appropriate because half the bloody movie was spent with a camera focused on Tanit Phoenix’s cleavage, only to pull away when a car blew up or someone died. Exploitation is one thing, but I mean c’mon, even I can admit the sexuality was laughably overplayed – and I’m a dude.
Here’s the thing though – Death Race 2 was an unnecessary and slobbish sequel to a B-Movie only hardcore genre junkies enjoyed, literally building up to the final conflict only to abruptly end the film and completely blow off the payoff we waited all movie to see. Do we really need yet another movie about prisoners killing each other with souped-up vehicular manslaughter dream cars? Do we really need to get any closer to the Death Race lineage with another prequel leading up to Jason Statham’s inevitable takeover of the Frankenstein legend in the (kind of) original Death Race? As long as Death Race 3: Inferno was tighter and more fun than Death Race 2, I suppose it couldn’t hurt that much, right?
Returning with most of the Death Race 2 cast, Luke (Luke Goss) teams up once again with navigator/love interest Katrina (Tanit Phoenix), crew chief Goldberg (Danny Trejo), and crew helper Lists (Fred Koehler). 14K (Robin Shou) is also back to compete against Luke, and Ving Rhames appears once again as Weyland Industries head honcho R.H. Weyland. This time around the game is different though, as entrepreneur Niles York (Dougray Scott) wants to franchise Death Race and buys the rights from Weyland himself through a hostile takeover. Wanting to capitalize on the violent nationwide addiction, he expands the race to numerous locations across the globe – starting with a Baja-type race through the deserts of Africa.
Luke of course is still embodying the face of Death Race, Frankenstein, and is only one race away from winning his freedom – something York cannot have if he intends to capitalize on Death Race’s popularity. From here it’s an all-out battle for freedom including more cars, more racers, more metal-crunching carnage, and as previously mentioned, more boobs.
Seriously, this is some Michael Bay style sexism here, except we finally have a female racer! Kudos to Olga (Michelle van Schaik) for playing bumper cars with the big boys, but it’s too bad nothing was really done with her character except essentially make her a ditsy blonde. In fact, all the characters were rather lacking except for Psycho (Jeremy Crutchley), who was still one of the more confusing and anti-climactic story-arcs in the film. He’s built up as this unstable and maniacal son of a bitch, hangs around the back most of the race, pops into the race for a bit, and is “eliminated.” That’s it for a character we were just waiting to see explode emotionally?
The lack of characterization really disappointed me, as screenplay writer Tony Giglio did obvious things like name the “funny” character Joker, and by funny character I mean a brainless wanker who spouts 3rd grade retorts like “Does it look like I’m blind?!” Oh Joker, you slay me every time!
The racers barely even talked too, like Pretty Boy for instance. He literally only had the name because of his nice hair, and again he’s dispatched of before anything can be done with his nickname. At least have him walking around the cave beforehand like an egotistical playboy so we get a sense of why else he might be called Pretty Boy. Hell, I’m surprised they didn’t name one Cowboy and just slap a cowboy hat on him – that’s the level of creativity we’re dealing with here.
But hell, cars shoot missiles! Things go boom! People die! Yes, this is true, all these things happen, and more so than in Death Race 2. We even start out with a feisty little pre-game warm-up for our female navigators. Sixteen are available, but there are only ten drivers. I won’t tell you how the ten are picked, but I’ll just say the inmates had a hell of a time watching the girls “duke it out,” but the inmates were also more involved in other scenes as well. There’s a lot more off-the-track fighting in Death Race 3: Inferno, as Luke and his crew are forced numerous times to prove themselves in a test of fisticuffs. More action means more distractions, which I’m not going to argue in the least.
Of course though, just as in Death Race 2, Tony Giglio’s story leaves so many holes to be patched and so many questions to be answered. Reiné’s visual direction doesn’t help either, as some of his constructed scenes only add to the confusion as bullets make things instantly blow up and explosions happen that either should be entirely more devastating or entirely less grand. But that’s out of Giglio’s hands, so I’ll give him a break there – and only there. Death Race 3: Inferno had no depth in characters or story, focused a little too hard on the killer car action elements, and once again delivered a twisted ending that will leave your brain in a painful knot. Take away the fun little tie-ins that lead to Death Race and I would say the last few scenes are completely rubbish – but seeing familiar faces always is a fun tease. C’mon, it’s the third Death Race movie, what did you expect?!
While Death Race 3: Inferno beats out Death Race 2, Death Race still leaves both in the dust. Frankenstein’s journey is wearing thin I’m afraid, as you can only squeeze so many races out of a man who has been so close to freedom every single time. Let’s be honest, you’re going to get everything you expect – explosions, fast cars, deadly weapons, and big guns (of the female variety) – but that’s not necessarily a good thing depending on if your expectations were as low as mine in this case. Sorry if you like these films, but this is one franchise that studios need to put the brakes on immediately.
Inferno absolutely pulls ahead of Death Race 2 as far as the Death Race franchise is concerned, but that's not hard when your competition comes in at an uncontested dead last.