Blu-ray Review: Death Race: Beyond Anarchy

Death Race: Beyond Anarchy is the fourth installment of the revitalized Death Race franchise that began back in 2008 with Death Race starring Jason Statham. The series isn’t one I’ve followed, but after doing a bit of research it seems that the next two installments delved into the story of famed Death Race driver/inmate Frankenstein and were prequels to the 2008 film. Beyond Anarchy is the first direct sequel, and I’m sure if you’ve followed the story so far you’ll probably know what to expect and give this one a chance; however, for those new to the series just looking for a fun time, well, I’d say you’re best bet is to look elsewhere.

Beyond Anarchy is the longest film in the franchise coming in at a hefty one hour and fifty one minutes. I’ll say right out of the gate that they easily could’ve slashed off 30 minutes of this movie and it would’ve only improved it. That said, if they really wanted to keep the length the way it is and give the story more depth than a bunch of convicts get into cars and kill one another, well, they should’ve tried a lot harder. Beyond Anarchy is a cookie cutter story that’s just a mess when it comes to pacing, editing and storytelling.

The film begins by saying that Death Race (which was previously a reality TV show that rivaled the Super Bowl for viewers) has been outlawed, and yet the prison – which is now a section of a city with a wall around it – still runs these races and broadcasts them on the dark web for gambling purposes. Whomever wins the race runs the prison. The first 15 or 20 minutes basically shows that Frankenstein is a psychopath, he runs the joint, and even a SWAT team that’s sent in to take him out and put an end to the Death Race is easily dismantled thanks to everyone in the prison worshiping this guy.

It’s just such a long intro that not only ruins any sort of surprise that’s supposed to come later in the movie after a new crop of inmates show up, including Connor (Zach McGowan), who instantly wants to challenge Frankenstein in the race, but also just is pointless. It’s so drawn out, with so many terrible edits and shaking cameras and you’re just watching and waiting for the movie to begin 20 minutes in, which seems weird.

The movie should’ve begun with Connor arriving, and we can learn the few ins and outs along the way as he does. There’s no need for this drawn out intro with a five-minute rock concert that just shows how dirty and insane everyone in the prison is. Again, I haven’t seen the previous films (which I usually try to catch up with before watching a sequel); however, this should just be some mindless entertainment with action and crazy car stunts, and yet it’s just trying to be something more while constantly sabotaging itself along the way.

There’s this relationship between Connor and a bartender Jane (Christine Marzano) that just comes out of absolutely nowhere. It’s fine to have her be a love interest, but it’s just so out of the blue and while it feels like it’s not fleshed out whatsoever, it still takes up the same amount of screen time where it could’ve been done properly so it’s just poor writing as to why it wasn’t.

The same goes for Connor’s character all around. He’s the protagonist of the movie, and he slightly opens up to Jane, again, totally out of the blue, and yet it’s unclear if he’s telling the truth, or why he makes the choices he makes in the movie, what his past was…you don’t need to explain everything, but this movie is almost two hours long and there’s more time spent on naked women dancing around than there is on any character development. Maybe that’s what they were going for, but it just makes it so hard to sit through as you don’t care what happens to anybody at any moment throughout the entire movie.

I’m fine with the occasional loud, crazy, turn-your-brain-off action flick that’s just made for pure entertainment purposes; but the key word there is entertainment and that’s something that’s missing from Death Race: Beyond Anarchy.

The movie is hard on the eyes due to the crazy editing, which just constantly cuts from shot to shot and when you throw in the shaky-cam shooting style it just makes your head spin at times. The movie looks like the filmmakers obviously wanted it to look like, which is dirty, dingy, dark and dismal. The transfer onto Blu-ray makes it all look as good as it can, as its dark yet clear and not muddy in its blacks. The audio and dialogue balance out one another well for how hard the music rocks out alongside the words being said.

Special Features:

Inside the Anarchy –
This feature is a few minutes long and just quickly touches on where the film is taking place, some of the locations and sets described by the cast and crew.

Time Served: Lists & Goldberg – This featurette quickly focuses on the returning characters of Lists (Fred Koehler) and Goldberg (Danny Trejo) and how they’ve been the reoccurring characters throughout the entire franchise.

On the Streets of Death Race: Beyond Anarchy stunts – Another quick featurette that just touches on the race within the film, and a few various other action sequences.

Audio Commentary –
There’s a commentary with writer/director Don Michael Paul and Zach McGowen for those interested.

Universal Pictures Presents Death Race: Beyond Anarchy. Directed by: Don Michael Paul. Written by: Don Michael Paul, Tony Giglio. Starring: Zach McGowen, Danny Trejo, Fred Joehler, Crhistine Marzano, Nolan North. Running time: 111 Minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: Oct. 2, 2018.

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