Cast: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone
Synopsis: The US is now a fascist police state run by BOTH commies and Nazis (I think) who use a coast to coast race known as the Transcontinental Road Race to entertain the masses. It’s essentially The Hunger Games but with cars instead of teenage angst and sexy love triangles.
Aside from Kill Bill, I had never really seen a movie with David Carradine in it but I knew he was a B-movie legend. I decided to give this classic a go because I didn’t particularly feel like watching the Jason Statham remake. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun this movie was. It’s like an extremely low-budget version of The Hunger Games or The Running Man and it’s full of campy charm and grindhouse gore. It’s Wacky Races meets Zombie Holocaust. Also, I had no idea that Stallone was in this so that was rather unexpected.
The story follows five racers as they take part in the Transcontinental Road Race which is a car race from New York to LA. However, the goal is not just to reach the finish line first. A contestant will rack up points for every pedestrian they kill, with different points being awarded for the different age ranges of the victims. The racers include: a cowgirl; a Roman gladiator; a Nazi; a gangster; and a half-man-half-robot monster that is really just David Carradine with a prosthetic hand. They must finish the race, rack up the most points, and avoid being killed by the revolution. It’s deliciously tacky and oddly engaging, almost like what I imagine films in North Korea to be like. The film is hilariously faux-political and has what has to be the crummiest police state I have ever seen in a movie. Everything is just so OTT and cheap at the same time but resoundingly satisfying.
A great side effect from the movie was that it was clear to see how these types of films inspired Quentin Tarantino and it made me want to watch some of his movies. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I was sick all weekend so I had the time to lie in bed and watch a medley of Tarantino movies (Death Proof, Jackie Brown, and Pulp Fiction). Death Race 2000, by some roundabout way, allowed my baked and sick ass to reminisce about a lot of great movie experiences I’d had in the past and anything that does that is a good thing in my book. Yes, it may not be the most sophisticated film around but, just like Hausu, it has a lot of heart and I respect that.
- The Nazis. I know it’s probably not politically correct to like anything Nazi-ish but they were just bloody brilliant. Whenever they ran someone over they would shout ‘BLITZKREIG!!!!’ German is such a beautiful language.
- The euthanasia scene was inappropriately excellent.
- Wondering why the hell anyone would be outside on the day of the Transcontinental Road Race. Seriously, did they not know that it was happening on that day?
- The music used in the fight scene between Carradine and Stallone was so out of place it was amazing.
- The TV lady, Grace Pander, was so annoying. I wanted to punch her.
- The fact that, even though the film is set all across the US, the significant majority is actually filmed on stretches of roads that are clearly just outside of LA. It would have been great to see more locations.
This movie is definitely an enjoyable way to kill a couple of hours. Wonderfully low-budget and odd, Death Race 2000 is a great reminder about what can be accomplished with the right attitude, even if you’re lacking in funds. Great for groups or on your own. With respect to strains, I don’t think it really matters with a movie like this. A sativa might encourage you to overlook the film’s blatant shoddiness but I think that the charm shines through that anyway. Also, no need to worry: a lack of knowledge or like of cars will not destroy the fun. I am by no means a gear-head and it had no impact on my opinion of the film.