19th Jan2013

‘Death Race 3: Inferno’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott, Tanit Phoenix, Fred Koehler, Robin Shou | Written by Tony Giglio | Directed by Roel Reine

Universal have made quite a stock in trade of taking some of their fan-favourite franchises and cranking out straight to DVD sequels: Darkman, Tremors, The Scorpion King, American Pie, hell – even the The Land Before Time series! One of their best current straight to DVD franchises is Death Race… Now in it’s third incarnation, the series is, in this reviewers humble opinion, actually one of the best low-budget action franchises around and despite any misgivings you may have, this third film keeps up the quality.

A sequel to the prequel, helmed once again by Dutch director Roel Reine – who directed the previous film in the franchise; and who seems to be specialising in directing DTV sequels having lensed The Marine 2, Death Race 2 & 3 and The Scorpion King 3Death Race 3: Inferno picks up the story of Carl Lucas aka Frankenstein (Goss) following his fourth win in the lethal prison race and transplants the action outside of the prison walls for the first time.

Death Race 3: Inferno sees Death Race founder Weyland (Rhames) bought out of his company by smarmy British businessman Niles York (Scott), who immediately decides to expand the Death Race “franchise” across the globe, using Frankenstein’s popularity to launch each event. First up is the Kalahari Desert, where not only do the drivers have to deal with each other, but also the heavily armed Kalahari warlords who decide to take shots at the vehicles as they pass through the desert! As the official synopsis states: “Repentant convict Carl Lucas (Goss) — aka Frankenstein— is a legendary driver in the brutal prison blood sport known as Death Race.  Only one victory away from winning freedom, Lucas is plunged into his most vicious competition yet: the first ever Desert Death Race. Through South Africa’s infernal Kalahari Desert, Lucas is pitted against ruthless adversaries and powerful forces at work behind the scenes to ensure his defeat.”

Thankfully for this latest iteration the filmmakers have not only transplanted the action outside the prison walls of the first two films, they have also used this (literal) change of scenery to expand the size and scope of the action contained within too. This third film also adds a new element of gladiatorial combat between the female navigators, which is very reminiscent of the 80s post-apocalyptic flicks which were churned out by Roger Corman and many Italian imitators in the VHS heyday (a heyday in which Death Race 3 would actually sit rather nicely). The action, which is key to the series, is also ramped up in this three-quel, with plenty more car crashes, much bigger explosions, some gory killings (including a gruesome beheading and a bloody exploding body) and great use of in-car cameras which really capture the feeling of being inside the cars when they crash and burn.

Not only is director Roel Reine back for this third film but it also features the returning cast of Danny Trejo, Tanit Phoenix, Fred Koehler and the incredibly under-used Robin Shou (who should really be the lead in his own DTV action flicks). Death Race 3 also features another screenplay by Tony Giglio, who is one of the most underrated scriptwriters working today – having penned not only Death Race 2 and 3, but also the fantastic slasher movie Timber Falls. Giglio was also the writer/director of the underrated Jason Statham flick Chaos (Statham was of course in the original Death Race directed by Paul W.S. Anderson – feels kind of full circle right?).

Whilst you might think that by the time a franchise reaches the third film in the series there’s nothing left to give (at least in terms of refreshing the story or delivering new ideas), you’d definitely be wrong in the case of Death Race 3 – which manages to be just as thrilling, just as exciting and I’d go as far as saying MORE action-packed than its predecessors, whilst at the same time successfully managing to bring the story full-circle and back to where it all began with the Jason Statham original… In fact Death Race 3 is a fantastic conclusion to this DTV series and shows just how much love the creators of the prequels have for the series and it’s fans (of which I am most-definitely one).

If you liked the first two films – hell, even if you didn’t – Death Race 3: Inferno is a MUST-SEE. A brilliant end to a brilliant series, this is a great send-off for Luke Goss’ anti-hero Carl Lucas. I just hope Universal end the franchise here whilst it’s on a high.

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