“Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” – the feel good romantic comedy of the year! Um, no. It’s safe to say that when you’ve got a movie title with the words “death”, “race”, and “anarchy” in the title, you’re probably in for an unleaded but testosterone-fueled good time.
Continuing the franchise that started in 1975 with “Death Race 2000” (but connected in name only), “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy” is a direct to video sequel (just like the 2 and 3 follow ups) to the Jason Statham-starring revival that hit theaters 10 years ago. If you are wondering why you don’t remember seeing these last 3 films in theaters, it’s because the sequels got the direct to video treatment courtesy of Universal 1440 Entertainment, which works just fine when you want to avoid the MPAA altogether and release something that is truly “unrated and unhinged”, just as the box art says.
This Death Race stars Zach McGowan (“Black Sails”, “The Walking Dead”, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) as Connor, the man with all the abs thrown into a desolate city-sized prison lorded over by a mysterious man named Frankenstein, the fastest and deadliest racer in “The Sprawl, who rules with an iron fist, er, mask. Danny Trejo, a man who is no stranger to violent exploitation films (“Machete”, “Grindhouse”), returns to the series as Goldberg, a bookie who bets on the outcome of the races and pretty much exists to talk on the phone partially clothed while being draped in snakes and naked women. It’s a tough life for Danny. The other Danny in the movie, Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), plays Baltimore Bob, the man on the inside with the hookup to mentor and connect our hero Connor with the means to take on the malicious Frankenstein on his own turf. The rest of the cast is made up of a lot of familiar faces but, as yet, not a lot of names most will recognize.
But this isn’t a movie where acting and insightful dialogue is the focus. You know what you’re watching this for. As the trailer above shows, it’s all about the wild cars, the gory violence, and checking the box on pretty much every base desire you might entertain. If you have any interest at all in “Death Race 4: Beyond Anarchy”, it’s because you saw at least one of the last 3 films and wanted more. These are the types of movies that would have called out to you on a Friday night while casually perusing your local Blockbuster, looking for something other than the “Forest Gump” or “Titanic” VHS tapes choking the shelves.
You get what you expect with this movie. I see a lot of movies and I can’t recall the last time I saw a movie that was so unashamedly reveling in nudity, sex, and violence since the days of scrambled Cinemax. The 13 year old me would have killed to see the needless amount of boobies on display in this movie, but now, with a pristine picture and a better understanding of film, I couldn’t help but laugh a little whenever a curvy naked young woman gyrated into view. Lovely and eye-catching as they are, it felt too much like a literal homage to the forbidden films of my youth, just a cable box slap away from clarity, long before our current day where a forbidden naked breast is now just a click or tap away. And speaking homages, is it too soon to pay tribute to “Mad Max: Fury Road”? “Death Race 4” is riddled with “Fury Road” style imagery, from the costumes and makeup to, of course, the suped-up cars. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The filmmakers definitely knew their target audience when they made this.
So if you’re in the mood for an unapologetically dystopian race/crash/explosion(and nudity)-a-palooza, you can’t go wrong with “Death Race: Beyond Anarchy”, available in stores and online now. And don’t worry if you haven’t seen any of the previous films; the premise is similar, but the stories are not tightly tied together. However, if you’re new to the series and you want to catch up on all the action, you can always grab the 4 movie set, also available in stores or on your favorite online seller’s website now.