The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 99 minutes/101 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Luke Goss, Fred Koehler, Tanit Phoenix, Patrick Lyster, Joe Vaz, Danny Trejo, Sean Bean, Ving Rhames,
Directed by: Roel Reine
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Written by: Tony Giglio
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 18, 2011
"See how it all began"
In the world's most dangerous prison, a new game is born: Death Race. The rules of this adrenaline-fueled blood sport are simple, drive - or die. When repentant convict Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) discovers there's a price on his head, his only hope is to survive a twisted race against an army of hardened criminals and tricked-out cars. Also starring Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames, Death Race 2 tells the explosive story of how the legendary race began. Strap yourself in for an insane thrill-ride!
Death Race 2 takes place in the very near future, as the United States economy begins to decline and violent crime starts to spiral out of control. To contain the growing criminal population, a vast network of for-profit, private prisons springs up, creating a lawless subculture ruled by gangs, cold-blooded killers and sociopaths. The worst of these prisons is Terminal Island, where inmates fight each other in a highly rated televised death match, where there are no rules, and the winner is the one who survives the gladiator-style, noholds-barred competition. Convicted cop-killer Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) arrives on the Island to serve his life sentence just as ruthlessly ambitious television personality September Jones evolves the death match into the ultimate reality show - Death Race. A brutal prison yard demolition derby that pits prisoners against each other in steel reinforced, heavily armed vehicles, Death Race offers the winner the ultimate prize: freedom if he can survive to enjoy it.
I own the original Death Race on Blu-ray and while it isn't a great film I find it to be guilty pleasure entertainment at its best. I saw the trailer for this direct to video prequel and it just didn't interest me. I thought that on its own the original film was just fine. Quite frankly this prequel adds little to nothing unless your dying to know the origins of Frankenstein, the cop killing Death Racer who dies early in the first film. The back story about how he winds up in prison is lame at best. Once he gets there we are treated to an unfulfilling scenario that leads up to the origin and set up of the Death Race match. Totally contrived and rail thin this couldn't help but feel like a rip off of the first film, prequel or not. Sean Bean's growling accent and Ving Rhames thug like posturing didn't help matters and Lauren Cohan gave an incredulous and overacted performance as the film's adversarial catalyst. I didn't mind Luke Goss in the lead role although he is no Jason Statham. Returning cast members Robin Shou and Fred Koheler reprise their characters and Danny Trejo, while typically credible, does little to enrich the dismal storyline. For a budget film I found the special effects and action to be quite good. It doesn't break new ground when compared to the first film but I still found it to be entertaining enough to keep interest going. As a fan of Death Race I could easily identify with Death Race 2 from a conceptual standpoint and found its action based sequences to be unoriginal but nevertheless entertaining. The real problem I had was acceptance of its overly contrived premise, shallow storyline and cardboard cutouts for characters. Both a rated and unrated version of the film is included. I watched the unrated cut (which adds a few minutes to the rated cut's runtime) during my evaluation.
The rating is for brutal violence, pervasive language and some sexual content.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Death Race 2 comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Studios HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.2 Mbps.
This is stylized video presentation that makes use of darker color schemes and grittier textures that provide the look that the filmmakers strive for to drive the story's components. Its predominantly sepia toned aesthetic is broken up by splashes of vivid primary colors, crimson, and warm golden accents. Bold use of contrast and rich blacks allow scenes containing mixed content to appear gradationally satisfying with punchy whites and dark dynamic highlights. Shadow delineation is inconsistent but revealing of enough detail to be discerning. Resolution is discerning, particularly in brightly lit sequences, as images are characterized by definitively rendered detail that gives the video appreciable dimension and delineated texture. Darker sequences aren't rendered with the same level of lucidity and depth. I also noticed that several low level backgrounds (such as the sequence that takes place in the prison shower) appeared noisy which is exacerbated by grain. Neither proves overtly distracting but is worthy of note.
The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack has extended dynamic range, detail rich clarity and makes ample use of the entire surround platform to drive the film's elements. The music score, coupled along with the integration of discrete and ambient sound effects, plays an intricate role in this involving and sometimes active surround mix. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room's acoustic environment makes for a notably enveloping surround experience. Integration of the front and rear channels can occasionally seem uneven as certain effects mixed to the rear soundstage are a little on the hot side but I wouldn't describe it as compromising. Low frequency effects can be intense as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the low level bass and dynamic impact during action based sequences. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel and clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and balance within the front soundstage. I thought the presentation was quite good and as a whole enhanced the enjoyment of the film.
- (HD) Deleted scene montage with optional director introduction - 4 minutes
- (HD) The race begins: The evolution of The Death Race - 6 minue featurette
- (HD) Cheating death: The stunts of Death Race 3 - 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Fast cars and firearms: The cars of Death Race 2 - 7 minute featurette
- Feature commentary by director Roel Reine
- My Scenes bookmark feature
- D-Box Motion Code enabled
- Bonus DVD of Death Race 2
- Digital Copy
Death Race 2 is a direct to video prequel to 2008's Death Race, which I found to be an entertaining popcorn movie. Death Race 2's overly contrived plot, shallow storyline and uninspired characters/performances leave it feeling unremarkable and flat. Its saving grace is its well executed special effects and action based sequences which prove visceral enough to keep interest from waning. Its day and date home video release on Blu-ray Disc from Universal Studios Home Entertainment offers solid high definition video quality coupled with a boisterous DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix and a decent assortment of bonus supplements that are worth checking out if you like the film. If you are a fan of Death Race I suppose Death Race 2 is worth checking out but I strongly recommend a rental prior to purchase.
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