Death Race (2008): *** 1/2 (out of 4) / * 1/2 (out of 4)
One of the more interesting review systems I've seen split the review up into two categories - the quality of movie, and the kind of movie it was aiming to be. There are good movies that are aiming to be good movies - The Lord of the Rings, The Shawshank Redemption, etc - and there are good movies that are aiming to be bad movies - Evil Dead 2, Tremors. I don't always like using that distinction, but sometimes it fits. And Death Race - well, yeah, it was aiming to be stupid.
I didn't really know what to expect going in. I knew we weren't going to get the original Death Race 2000, with its nascent social commentary and the like, but I was hoping to still at least be entertained. The way I saw it, there were two paths that this could take: either it could be Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, one of the worst movies I'd ever seen (but also one of the best movie-going experiences, because I got to MST3K my way through it in a crowded theatre), or it could be the original Mortal Kombat, which was fun and stupid and something I still pop in the DVD player every now and then.
I got the latter.
To spoil the movie, sortof: it starts way too slowly and ponderously, as we build up to the reason that Jason Staham ends up in jail (hint: it's in the trailer). Then we spend a while explaining the race. Then the race begins, and there's a whole lot of violence and death, and sometimes the stakes are raised for no obvious reason. Then there's a resolution that doesn't make any sense, and the credits roll.
The plot holes are ridiculous. The characters are a joke, mostly racial stereotypes that are badly performed and conceived. The pacing was a mess, both of the plot and of the violence. Most of the good stuff was spoiled in the trailers.
And I loved it, even though it was garbage.
*** 1/2 / * 1/2. See it if you're into this kind of thing.