Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the race is over. The competition is won. The arrival of Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race - even though it comes so very early in the year - has put a conclusive end to the race for the 2008 Razzie Awards. Worst film? Worst director? Worst screenplay? Worst actress? Not only will Death Race take all of these categories but the competition won't even be close. There is quite simply no chance whatsoever that any other film will arrive on the scene to rival this - the latest in a long, ling line of very, very bad films from Anderson - for if anyone should even attempt to create another film at this level of ineptitude within the rest of the calendar year I have no doubt that the universe would spontaneously implode in protest of having to play host to such an indignity. This, people, is a Very Bad Film.

On the surface, a remake of the Roger Corman-produced cult flick would seem apropos, even timely right now. Death Race is a title primed to both exploit and comment upon the current craze for 'extreme' - read, 'hyper violent' - sport and the society that consumes it but there is neither the will nor the brain at work here to offer any sort of commentary whatsoever, nor the skill to properly exploit it. What do we have? Jason Statham is Jensen Aimes, a near future steel worker and former race car driver thrown out of work when the mill he works at shuts down, leaving him unable to provide for his wife and infant daughter. It's not like he has long to worry about that, though, because the very same day Aimes is thrown out of work masked men invade his home, kill his wife, and leave Aimes unconscious with a bloody knife in his hand. Six months later he has a life term in prison.

But prisons are different in the future. They have become privately run, for-profit organizations. Rehabilitation? What's that? The prisoners are fodder for extreme sports, corpses-in-waiting destined to battle it out for massive pay-per-view online audiences with potential release dangled in front of their eyes as a prize should they succeed multiple times in the gladiatorial combats. And the most successful of these games, the highest rated sport, is the Death Race - a three day, multi stage race run by prisoners in cars heavily modified to include steel armor and heavy weaponry. Hmm ... new guy in prison happnes to be a driver, and the next Death Race is just days away, there couldn't be a conspiracy at play here, could there? Of course there is! The prison warden orchestrated the killing of Aimes' wife and his subsequent conviction, needing him to replace Frankenstein, a popular masked driver killed (though nobody knows that) in the last race. Bloodshed ensues.

For a brief, shining moment I actually though Death Race may end up being a servicable B-flick on the strength of it's cast - arguably the best Anderson has ever had to work with. Sure, Statham aint a great actor, and he never has been, but he's a charismatic guy, easily able to chew his way through this stuff. Throw the dependable Joan Allen and brilliant Deadwood baddie Ian McShane into the key support roles and this could actually work, right? Oh, hell no. The film fails on so many levels it's hard to keep count.

The blame, first of all, should rest at the feet of Paul W.S. Anderson. His direction is horrible, with the exception of a couple of admittedly stellar shots the car race scenes are actually kind of cluttered and boring, several normally solid bit players turn in career worst performances and the Anderson-written script is laughably, horribly bad. We like to joke about plot holes big enough to drive a truck through but this film has plot holes that people LITERALLY drive actual trucks through with nobody so much as batting an eyelash. And the dialog ... oh, the dialog ... but more on that later ... Anderson wears a LOT of hats on this film and, without belaboring the point, it is very safe to say that the work he turns in for every single role he is supposed to fill is appallingly below standard.

The blame, second of all, should rest at the feet of the cast. Not Statham so much - he'll brush this one off easily enough - or McShane, who is absolutely the only performer to rise above the level of the script he's given to turn in something approaching a compelling performance, but all the rest are horrible. Tyrese Gibson hits an all time low as the primary on-track villain. Natalie Martinez as Statham's navigator / love interest? Utterly abysmal every time she opens her mouth, but honestly she was cast for her cleavage not her ability to deliver a line and the cleavage is just fine, thanks, so it's hard to fault her too much. But Joan Allen? Oh, Joan, what were you thinking? Did you not read the script when they sent it to you? When we get to hear Morgan Freeman cuss in Wanted it ends up being a high point of the film because Freeman so clearly is having a blast playing so far against type, he delivers the line so incredibly well, and it fits within the world Wanted has created. But when Allen cautions Statham, "Fuck with me and we'll find out who shits on the sidewalk." the response is just, WHAT? What the hell? What does that even MEAN? Never mind that the delivery's clumsy, that's just NONSENSE! And nonsense is never, ever bad-ass. Oh, Joan, I know I can't blame you for writing it, but you agreed to say it and you really, really should have known better.

So, the film's horrible. That leaves the question of whether this is a so-bad-its-good sort of film. Well, once the first openly mocking laugh burst out about half way through the screening I attended the crowd loosened up noticeably and got into the jeering spirit. Did we have a good time? Yes, yes we did. But, importantly, none of us had paid to be there. And, honestly, I can't imagine any paying, sober audience being happy about having to sit through this.

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