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Death Race, Joan Allan, Jason Statham

Universal Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Jason Statham—a man so virile he makes male-pattern baldness look tough—plays Jensen Ames, a convict forced to compete in an ultraviolent version of NASCAR, complete with machine guns and other James Bond-esque gadgets under the hood. This remake of Roger Corman's camp classic spackles enough blood and burnt rubber into the gaping plot holes it's easy to ignore them until the ride home.

The Bigger Picture: Jensen Ames is a regular guy trying to make it in one of those near-future worlds where the economy is in the toilet and corporations run everything. Then someone kills his wife, and he's convicted for the crime. Jensen, it turns out, used to be a hot driver, and Warden Hennessey (played with religious fervor by Joan Allen) wants him for her pay-per-view ratings bonanza: road combat between inmates.

Sure it's all pretty preposterous, but the difference between this and lesser examples of the genre is execution. Nobody misses a step, from Ian McShane as the older, wiser convict, to Tyrese Gibson as Jensen's maniacal opponent. Director Paul W.S. Anderson—best known for the Resident Evil franchise—doesn't treat his audience with contempt. He delivers the exposition fast in order to get to the mayhem. It would be nice if, say, the villain's IQ didn't plummet as the action got louder, but the movie's called Death Race, after all. Look for subtlety elsewhere.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The movie sputters and coughs to a halt. Instead of a grand finale, we get a finish so lackluster it seems like the filmmakers just ran out of gas, and ideas, and called it a day.