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Death Race 3: Inferno(2012)
Convicted cop-killer Carl Lucas, aka Frankenstein, is a superstar driver in the brutal prison yard demolition derby known as Death Race. Only one victory away from winning freedom for himself and his pit crew, Lucas is plunged into an all-new competition more vicious than anything he has experienced before. Pitted against his most ruthless adversaries ever, Lucas fights to keep himself and his team alive in a race in South Africa's infernal Kalahari Desert. With powerful forces at work behind the scenes to ensure his defeat, will Lucas' determination to win at all costs mean the end of the road for him?
For more about Death Race 3: Inferno and the Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray release, see Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott, Luke Goss, Tanit Phoenix, Robin Shou
Director: Roel Reiné
» See full cast & crew
Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray Review
"What we've got here is a failure to communicate..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 19, 2013
Forgive me father for I have sinned. I got a sick kick out of Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race. The entire time I was watching it, I knew it was genre junk parading as social commentary. The sort of high-concept, lowbrow, oil slick actioner that breathes and bleeds awful. But it was Big Dumb Fun at its purest, and it reeled me in; made me forget myself, forget that cold critical heart beating in my chest, forget that my cinematic duty is to rail against movies as unruly and unwieldy as Anderson's ode to Roger Corman's cult hit, Death Race 2000. I didn't despise it, though... I loved it. I have a copy sitting on my shelf right now. Worse? It's sitting next to a copy of Roel Reine's Death Race 2, a sequel everyone in the known world hated but I somehow enjoyed. Oh, I knew going in that it wouldn't be as entertaining, and it wasn't. I had a hunch its script, performances and races would reek of direct-to-video low-budgeting, and they did. But I still grinned, laughed and, somewhere between Sean Bean's first sinister sneer and Ving Rhames' last cheesy growl, relished my second stint on Terminal Island.
Fast forward two long years. Reine is back in the thick of the carnage, this time with Death Race 3: Inferno, a trilogy capper so tedious and dull, so undeniably bad it almost defies critical analysis. I can't say I'm surprised -- or rather I shouldn't be surprised -- but, somewhere along the way, I had apparently deluded myself into thinking Inferno would at least be a semi-decent guilty pleasure. Not so. From its painfully slow, laughably serious opening to its all too predictable endgame, Reine's prequel-sequel is a clunker through and through. It's almost as if no one on the production team, Reine included, was handed the official So You're Making a Death Race Sequel memo, which reads: Attach guns to cars. Place cars on track. Race around track with guns. Make cars 'splode. Attach bigger guns to bigger cars. Repeat until budget is exhausted. Roll credits. Chintzy cars with pellet pistols. Poorly edited, nonsensical races on desert non-tracks. Girl on girl blade battles. Hostile business takeovers. Splashes of silly, gratuitously staged blood-balloon gore. And some of the worst behind-the-wheel acting, stuntwork and action filmmaking you'll see all year. This isn't Death Race 3, it's Death of a Franchise: The Beginning, and it doesn't bode well for the inevitably horrendous sequels sure to come.
Doomed convict Carl Lucas (Luke Goss, Hellboy II: The Golden Army) -- you and the Death Race-addled public know him better as Frankenstein, the iron-masked racer -- only needs to win one more Death Race circuit to earn his freedom. Not that the corporate owners of the Pay Per View Death Race empire are remotely willing to let a prisoner, especially one of their most popular and successful broadcast antiheroes to date, walk out the front gate. Not only does Lucas have to race through the Kalahari Desert, he has to do so against more vile rival racers and through more deadly South African dangers than he's equipped to handle. Try to escape? A missile will be waiting to target the chip implanted in your neck. Attempt to win? An ever-changing slate of rules will topple the balance in your enemy's favor. Now Frankenstein has to fight for his freedom, protect his beautiful navigator (model Tanit Phoenix, Lord of War) and faithful pit crew (gruff Danny Trejo, Machete, and stammering Fred Koehler, Oz) from attacks on all sides, and find a way to take down the cruel new director of Death Race, Niles York (Dougray Scott).
I don't expect an innovative, thought-provoking plot. I know the mindless actioner I'm buying into. I don't expect clear, cohesive races. I know Reine is driving a fleet of weaponized junkyard derby cars in psuedo circles. I don't expect compelling drama. I know I'm essentially being sold a loose, unofficial adaptation of PSX, PS2-era videogame Twisted Metal. But I expect a cohesive story, even if it's barebones at best. I expect to be able to follow the progress of a race, if for no other reason than to bolster the intensity and bumper-to-bumper tension of the madness that transpires. I expect to connect with the characters, no matter how one-note and one-dimensional they are. Reine and screenwriter Tony Giglio's Inferno is a migraine in the making, complete with rapid, irritating quick-cuts and herky, jerky action scenes so littered with closeups and cutaways that it's next to impossible to tell what's happening at any given moment. Worse, the dialogue Goss and his castmates are forced to spew is lifted straight out of The Genre Writer's Handbook, which would be more of a problem if the supporting performances, and many of the most climactic standoffs, weren't so unbearable. Goss, Trejo, Koehler, Scott, Robin Shou and cool customer Ving Rhames are more than serviceable -- and more than Death Race 3 deserves -- but everyone else, chief among them curvy Phoenix (who wields a flame thrower like a hair dryer) and her fellow gladiatresses turned cockpit eye-candy, may as well be reading off cue cards. Because they are.
Somewhere between Death Race 2 and Inferno, Reine decided the franchise was due for some cinematic clout and respect. But in taking Death Race so seriously, he skips right past Big Dumb Dystopian Fun and lands on Big Dumb Dystopian Drama, and you'll never hear anyone defending a movie because of their affection for "Big Dumb Drama." Inferno is a humorless, inconsequential expansion of a series that rises and falls on its metal on metal violence, lock-jawed savagery and grindhouse swagger. Reine's latest installment is just gearing up for its first race at the half hour mark -- the half hour mark -- and nothing of import or consequence comes before it. (Or after it for that matter.) And when the long-gestating race goes nowhere fast, or anywhere at all, Reine resorts to race-to-race repetition, retreading old territory and piling one twist atop another until Inferno collapses under its own faux gravitas. If another Death Race comes to pass, Anderson would do well to put together a team who can stage an action scene while giving fans what they're looking for: cheap vehicular thrills, wild races and a healthy dose of, you guessed it, big dumb fun.
Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray, Video Quality
Gritty and glossy? Alright, I'll bite. Reine slathers on the grit and grime while shooting in hyper-glossed digital video, and Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is the primary benefactor. It doesn't quite work as far as the film is concerned, but as high definition presentation's go, it does its part. Hot contrast, sun-bleached desert crush, grungy black levels and dusty, oft-times dull, bloodless colors take a stylistic toll on the integrity of the image, but only insofar as Reine and co-DoP Wayne Shields intend. Otherwise, primaries, particularly reds, pack decent punch, fine detail is remarkable and delineation is relatively revealing (albeit at the expense of some muted shadows). Fine textures are crisp and well-resolved too, and edges are clean and precisely defined. As to the encode, I noticed minor shimmering and a few brief bursts of artifacting (likely the result of the cameras used to capture roadside vehicle stunts and explosions), but nothing that should give anyone serious pause. No, Death Race 3 isn't very pretty. Its BD video presentation delivers, though, so I don't have any real complaints.
Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Death Race 3: Inferno is certainly loud. Its sound design lacks finesse, that much is clear, and its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track follows suit. Even so, Universal's lossless mix can't really be faulted. Dialogue is clear, intelligible and passably prioritized, even when fireballs, rending metal, screaming drivers, crunching sand and the film's soundtrack are pouring out of every channel. The rear speakers aren't just active, they assault the listener, neck-snapping directional effects and all. LFE output is punchy and potent, with floor-shaking thooms, throaty engine roars, powerful explosions and deafening crashes. Again, though, ferocity and raw aggression trumps nuance and prowess, and the experience suffers every time the urge to adjust your receiver volume hits. As fierce and functional action tracks go, especially those that accompany low budget direct-to-video releases, Inferno's lossless mix hits hard and often, and doesn't relent.
Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If anybody was willing to give Death Race 3: Inferno a shot, it was me. I get a kick out of Anderson's original Race, actually had a good time watching Reine's first direct-to-video sequel (imperfect as it was) and had something resembling high hopes for the franchise's third outing. Unfortunately, Death Race 3 barely feels like a Death Race movie, much less a solid actioner. It takes itself too seriously and doesn't have the script, races or performances to achieve Big Dumb Fun memorability. Universal's Blu-ray release isn't nearly as problematic, thanks to a solid video presentation, a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and a decent lineup of special features. If you love Death Race as much as me, you should still give this one a chance. Just go with a rental first and see if Inferno is worth your hard-earned cash.
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Death Race 3: Inferno Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Death Race: Inferno Blu-ray (Updated) - November 8, 2012
Universal Studios has released a new trailer for Roel Reiné's Death Race: Inferno (2012). In this new film inspired by Roger Corman's cult classic, the popular Death Race is transported across the globe to the rugged terrain of South Africa where Frankenstein - ...
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