Death Race 3: Inferno - Unrated [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (23rd February 2013).
The Film

I have to give Universal’s now direct-to-video “Death Race” series a modicum of credit. Even if you haven’t seen “Death Race” (2008) – the mostly terrible remake of producer Roger Corman’s mostly awesome “Death Race 2000” (1975) – or "Death Race 2" (2010), that doesn’t matter if you’re about to watch “Death Race 3: Inferno” (2013). I appreciate a series that is completely new-viewer friendly while also (I assume) paying some respect to their returning audience. The opening of “Death Race 3” clearly sets up who these characters are, who we should be rooting for, and what’s transpired up to this point. In fact, if I hadn’t just read the Wikipedia synopsis for “Death Race 2” I’d never have known that this is a prequel to “Death Race”, or that this is a direct sequel to the previous film. But, really, none of that matters. While there may be some semblance of a story strung throughout this series, each entry is generally self-contained. Here’s all you need to know: convicts race deathtraps on wheels, attempt to kill each other, and the winner of 5 such races can go free (or so he thinks). That’s it. I’d be hesitant to even say there’s subtext to look out for because it’s all right there on the screen. Humanity has devolved into a mass of bloodthirsty savages, and our most favorite form of entertainment is watching convicted criminals blast each other to smithereens. And we’re willing to pay whatever it costs just to see it! It’s as subtle as a hammer to the face.

Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) has just barely survived a harrowing crash thanks to the aid of Weyland (Ving Rhames), formerly a major player in the Death Race games. Weyland wants him back out there driving as Frankenstein, the most popular driver in the sport, and because he needs help eliminating his new rival, Niles (Dougray Scott). Carl is transported to the Kalahari prison in South Africa, where he and his team will compete in the first of a planned series of Death Race matches. Carl, as Frankenstein, assembles his crew of Katrina (Tanit Phoenix), Goldberg (Danny Trejo), and Lists (Fred Koehler) to help him navigate the rough desert terrain chosen for the games. He’s only one win away from gaining his freedom, but Niles refuses to see his star driver set free, forcing Carl to lose the race or face certain death. There are three days of racing, and only one driver can be victorious. Carl has to come up with a plan or else… ah, screw it. You know Carl figures out the plan.

Look, this is a film concerned with entertainment and nothing more. You won’t even have time to notice standard genre conventions and stockpile dialogue because there’s so much eye candy on display in virtually every frame. That’s not a backhanded compliment either. The team behind this sequel knows exactly who their audience is (young males) and what they want to see (blood & boobs) – and they deliver both in spades. Ok, maybe not so much the boobs (because America is weird like that), but there’s enough arterial spray and charred flesh to keep your Holy Shit meter running high. To prove just how well they know their audience, before the races even begin they put around 20 female convicts in a weapons-filled cage – keep in mind this film’s typical female convict looks like a Penthouse model and has at least a double-D rack – and put them against each other in a death match to find the 10 women needed as navigational drivers. And we all know how nasty girls can be in a fight. Flame throwers, anyone? It’s juvenile entertainment in every way, but so ridiculous you have to love it.

Once the race itself gets underway, that’s when the real carnage starts. I liked the little touches that maintained the reality television premise they were going for, such as the name cards that come up briefly as each new driver is shown. In addition to driving artillery on wheels, drivers are also implanted with a small GPS chip in their neck just in case they get the urge to drive off course. And they do. Blood splatter begins right from the green light (before it, actually) and it hardly ever lets up as the track winds around the acrid desert climate. A lot of it is fully over the top, too; like a cameraman who doesn’t move quickly enough and winds up exploding like a meat piñata. That sort of thing. Only a few of the drivers get real camera time, making it very clear who’s going to be picked off early on so that our core of antagonists is established. The closest the film comes to offering up some prescient social commentary is when we see how the local villagers react to having a Death Race commence through their towns. I don’t know how likely we as a society are coming to condoning a sport like this, but the way things are going now... well, you just never know. So, in that respect, it was a nice addition to see how it affects the people of the region socially.

There IS a lot of bad acting here. Luke Goss is the quintessential DTV star; he’s got all the looks, ability, and charisma to carry a B-level picture, but nothing above that; like a younger Casper Van Dien or someone like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hell, plenty of actors would kill to ride the DTV gravy train. He plays the soft spoken tough guy role a bit too close, but since he’s required to be mostly mute under the Frankenstein visage he gets a pass. The only actor with any kind of ability, other than Ving Rhames in his 7-minute cameo, is Danny Trejo. I don’t care that he isn’t the greatest actor in the world; Trejo has carved out a perfect niche for himself as a character actor. He doesn’t exactly play himself, but more often than not he’s got the same persona, the same level of machismo and suave that makes him a draw in films like this. They even give him a gorgeous love interest! Considering his age and looks, acting has to be the best gift he’s ever received and I don’t blame him a lick for working in anything that provides a paycheck.

I hate using the phrase “turn off your brain” when referring to mindless action films because, whether good or bad, your brain is actively engaged any time you watch a film. But I’m not above calling this mindless entertainment, which is slightly ironic since the premise of the film itself is proving mindless, brutal entertainment. This Blu-ray contains both the "R" rated and "Unrated" cuts of the film. Their difference is only one minute (maybe less) in length. I know this is only done as a marketing ploy since the film was never released anywhere – rated or otherwise – so they can put whatever cut they want on the disc.

Video

It’s tough to find much fault with the 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image presented here. Shot digitally using the Red One camera, the picture is practically flawless. Director Roel Reiné and Wayne Shields share cinematography duties here. There are many stylistic lighting choices that give the film a stylized look. The hospital scenes in the beginning are shot with harsh, polarizing light which gives them a film noir quality. The prison set, which is confined to a dank, flooded cave, looks grim and full of despair against the harsh floodlights used inside. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to sit back and let the camera make the film look good enough on its own, but their choices in lighting and color really helps many scenes to stand out. One of my favorite shots is a slow-mo shot of a truck going headfirst into a crater lake, and the slow shot coupled with the beauty of this undisturbed lake water made it look more like a Discovery Channel program and less like two insane militant militia members diving into an African lake. Likewise, some slow camera work was also done to highlight the film’s numerous car stunts, which are death-defying and a wonder to behold. The fight scenes may be cut to hell, where each shot lasts for a second or two at most, but when these guys know how to show off the real money shots.

Audio

Thunderous. Booming. Relentless. This English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit is a sonic monster. They wanted to give you action from Frame One and it’s delivered like a bomb. The roar of car engines is deafening as drivers careen through the obstacle courses, smashing spectators and buildings like they’re made out of paper. The rear speakers are constantly engaged with the sounds of missiles flying overhead, desert sands whipping up around the terrain, turbine fans whirring loudly, gunfire, explosions… it’s an endless assault. Dialogue is mixed into the track with equal clarity and balance, so you can always hear the drivers screaming at each other while the track burns hot with screeching rubber and machine gun peppering. The only thing I found odd was that the soundtrack songs seem to be relegated to the front speakers mostly, not taking advantage of the full sound spectrum offered. But that’s minor since you’re watching this for things to be blown up very loud. In that respect, mission fully accomplished. The disc also includes Spanish and French DTS 5.1 surround sound tracks, as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, and French.

Extras

For a DTV title, this thing is stacked with an audio commentary, deleted & extended scenes, featurettes, bonus trailers, and more.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

Director Roel Reiné provides an audio commentary that is full of technical and anecdotal trivia. He talks often and enthusiastically. As director of the last two entries in this series, he has a lot to talk about regarding characters, storylines, camera work, locations, and just about anything else you might be curious to know about this prequel sequel.

An alternate opening (1080/60p) runs for 5 minutes and 21 seconds, this would have incorporated Carl’s accident footage with his meeting in the hospital with Ving Rhames. It doesn’t work nearly as well as the opening they used.

There are numerous deleted & extended scenes (1080/60p) included for the following:

- “I’m Ready To Do For You” runs 2 minutes and 8 seconds, extended footage of Weyland’s meeting with Carl.
- “One Win Away From Freedom” runs 41 seconds, Goldberg wishes Frankenstein would show a little gratitude.
- “Technically That’s Not Land” runs 58 seconds, Goldberg shows how happy he is to be off the boat.
- “Matthew 13:49” runs 1 minute and 38 seconds, the men are given an introduction at the prison.
- “Hope You Enjoy the Show” runs 1 minute and 13 seconds, a brief introduction before the women fight for the men.
- “You Are the Best Driver” runs 25 seconds, Frankenstein has words with a rival.
- “Kill As a Team” runs 2 minutes and 14 seconds, two drivers decide to work together against Frankenstein.
- “Too Many Deals” runs 1 minute and 3 seconds, yet another deal is made to try taking out Frankenstein.
- “Full of Surprises” runs 1 minute and 1 second, Frankenstein gets some help at the end.

A deleted shot montage (1080/60p) runs for 4 minutes and 59 seconds, this is quick 3-5 seconds shots that were deleted for one reason or another from the film.

“The Making of Death Race 3: Inferno” (1080/60p) featurette runs for 10 minutes and 38 seconds. All of the principal cast & crew break down their respective jobs on the film, we learn a bit about all the explosions taking place in the film, and there’s some footage shown of them shooting the film.

“Racing for Death” (1080/60p) featurette runs for 5 minutes and 57 seconds. Get a closer look at all the unique vehicles designed for the film.

“Art Imitating Life: Goldberg” (1080/60p) featurette runs for 5 minutes and 21 seconds. Danny Trejo discusses how he got started in acting. He spent some time in prison earlier in his life, and that has helped him play many of the roles he’s assigned on set. Short, but informative.

Bonus trailers (1080p) are included for the following:

- “Dead in Tombstone” runs for 1 minute and 35 seconds.
- “Guns, Girls, & Gambling” runs for 31 seconds.
- “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Transformers 3D: The Ride” runs for 40 seconds.
- “Grimm on Blu-ray” runs for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
- “End of Watch” runs for 37 seconds.
- “Hit & Run” runs for 29 seconds.

The disc is also enabled with common Universal Blu-ray features such as My Scenes, D-Box control, pocketBLU app, and BD-Live, although none of them contain much specific to the film other than the D-Box control for your home theater.

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a DVD copy of the feature film, along with most of the bonus features found on the Blu-ray.

There is also an insert inside the case with links to activate a digital copy for iTunes, as well as a code for use with Ultraviolet if you prefer storing your movies in a cloud.

Packaging

The 2-disc set comes housed in an amaray keep case with each disc housed on a hub opposite the other. The initial pressing contains a slip-cover with artwork matching the cover.

Overall

Blood, boobs, and bombs. That should be enough to sell a segment of people on the film since that’s clearly who they’re making it for. It’s not a great film, but it’s also not a bad way to kill roughly two hours.

The Film: C Video: A- Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: C+

 


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