Death Race: Inferno (2012)
Director: Roel Reine
Cast: Luke Goss, Tanit Phoenix, Danny Trejo
Synopsis: Convicted cop-killer Carl Lucas, aka Frankenstein, is a superstar driver in the brutal prison yard demolition derby known as Death Race. Only one victory away from winning freedom for himself and his pit crew.
There’s no doubt that the Death Race franchise has the Fast & Furious fan-boys firmly in its sights. This, the third in what will no doubt become a long-running franchise, features the same loosely plotted orgy of speed, violence and boobs, only here the cars are more Mad (as in Max) than Furious. The race scenes are handled professionally without ever really generating any true excitement, the fight scenes are shockingly poor — punches and kicks quite clearly don’t connect with their supposed targets — and the boobs are big and prominent. All boxes are checked — if only perfunctorily — then, when it comes to the basic requirements of your testosterone-filled male whose development remains in a persistently arrested state.
The third instalment of the franchise sees former pop teen idol Luke Goss reprise the role of Frankenstein, a cop-killer whose real name is Carl Lucas. Lucas assumed the guise of Frankenstein after being pulled from the burning wreckage of his motor in the previous movie, and has kept his true identity hidden from his faithful crew, comprised of the rugged Goldberg (the ever-watchable Danny Trejo), the timid and nerdy Lists Fred Koehler) and the boobie-licious Katrina (Tanit Phoenix). When he loses his mask in a fight, and the crew see who Frankenstein really is, they’re perhaps understandably a little miffed — particularly Katrina, who had a thing going on with Lucas.
Nevertheless, they overcome their disappointment in order to compete in another death race, this time in the inhospitable deserts and plains of South Africa. This Death Race has been organised by egomaniacal billionaire Niles York (Dougray Scott), who has bought out the franchise from former owner Weyland (Ving Rhames) with the intention of turning it into a regular bi-monthly spectacle in order to maximise its financial potential. But as Frankenstein is the main attraction, it’s necessary for York to renege on the existing agreement that whoever wins five races in a row will earn his release from prison — meaning that Lucas, who has won four races to date, must deliberately lose his race or die.
That’s about it as far as plot goes. There’s plenty going on behind the scenes though, as anyone who has ever seen a movie will instantly recognise when Lucas explains his plans to his crew without the audience being let in on what he’s telling them. The twist adds another five minutes to an already overlong running time in order for all the convoluted details of Lucas’s plot to be explained in easy-to-follow steps — and you can bet your life that any twist that needs that much explaining is going to be just a teensy bit unlikely.
To be fair, Death Race Inferno isn’t the wreckage of a movie it could quite easily have been, despite Roel Reine’s deliriously undisciplined direction. Honestly, I don’t think any single shot in the entire film lasts more than two seconds. An early free-for-all between 16 — count ‘em: 16! — buxom babes, is edited in such a disjointed fashion that it’s impossible to understand what’s happening. But then, I guess you’re supposed to be too entranced by the site of an Amazonian in stockings, suspenders and tight-fitting low-cut leather waistcoat brandishing a flamethrower to really care about what’s going on.
Luke Goss is surprisingly — well — all right, as our chiselled hero, pulling off a passable American accent (thanks, probably, to having few lines to speak) and is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood in some ways. While his emotions are deliberately buttoned down, Dougray Scott’s grow increasingly hysterical as the film progresses. Initially, he makes quite an interestingly smug villain, but then for much of the race sequences his contribution is limited to increasingly tiresome reaction shots. Tanit Phoenix is given precious little to do other than repeatedly point her cleavage at the camera and smoulder in a way designed to reduce fifteen-year-old boys to jelly, but she does it very well.