Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dear Charlie:

You know, I think Hollywood is trying too hard these days. They made a lengthy, flashy trailer for Death Race with hot cars and hot women and hot men and gruesomely good humor...and all they really had to do was show that two- or three-second scene of Jason Statham doing pull-ups without a shirt on.

Well, it worked for me, anyway.

So, yeah, I went to see Death Race. What? You thought that after such gluttonous pleasures as Iron Man, Dark Knight, and Tropic Thunder, I'd just sit at home and miss He of the Mighty-Sexy Back Muscles driving an armed and armored Mustang of any vintage (except those atrocious '80s models that looked like Pintos with vents on the sides)? Geez. I'm perpetually broke, not a saint.

Now, I know quite well that critics will probably pan this flick. Call it a "popcorn movie" or a "guilty pleasure". Considering how much popcorn is sold per year at theaters world-wide, I think it's safe to say that all movies, even the dullest documentaries, are popcorn movies. And if enjoying yourself for anywhere between an hour and a half to three hours is a guilty pleasure, well, I guess I really will be driving the bus to Hell because I won't repent of my many offenses, there.

But I think what really bothers me is this exerpt from a disturbingly preachy and totally-missed-the-point review by Roger Ebert:

Let us conclude that “Death Race” is not a brand that guarantees quality. That it will no doubt do great at the box office is yet another sign of the decline of the national fanboy mentality.

Look, I agree whole-heartedly that this flick is a form of exploitation. I mean, seriously. It's cars and women, and it admits it freely -- even having one of the characters say just that. My problem with the attitude in that oppressive statement is...what's so wrong with that?

I guess a point could be made that the mentality the film exploits is a mentality that could easily become reality. After all, the first words on the screen are that in a few years, the economy will collapse, crime will run rampant in the streets, the prisons won't be able to keep up, and corporations take over the penal system to make a profit where none else can be made. This leads to the equally entertaining and space-creating sport of setting the prisoners against each other in deathmatches that are then pay-per-viewed on the internet, turning a tidy profit for companies and making room for new prisoners every night.

And, as the opening titles explain, like the great Roman colisseum crowds of old, the audiences grow jaded and bored with such predictable exploitation and demand more. Thus, the Death Race was born. Revving engines and flaming gun muzzles and explosions galore...and the ever-present possibility of a gory and likely painful death at any moment.

It could happen. And I suppose we shouldn't find our own possible future so damn entertaining without thus opening the very way to it.

But that's not what this flick is really about, and it's really not for the philosophical lot that would think that way. Just because I understand the possibility doesn't mean I didn't heartily enjoy watching a swerving car smash into and liquefy a guy who'd just laughingly declared that he couldn't be killed. After all, it's just special effects. And pretty damn funny.

That doesn't make me a Roman-in-waiting. It's funny because it's not real, and it cracks me up to no end that people so easily forget that fact. And if it ever became real, I'd be first in line to condemn it. Greed has never been my favorite sin, and I have a hard time forgiving anyone for it.

Which is why I can laugh at it with a clear conscience.

So seriously, folks, don't go into a movie like Death Race expecting an epiphany or even a social commentary. Go to it expecting to be entertained and aghast and even amused. Go to it expecting squealing tires and napalm. Ripped bodies and testosterone. And all that rumbling, growling, gorgeously-sculpted muscle.

No, I'm not talking about Jason Statham. Heh. This time, I'm talking about the car. God, but I love a Mustang. I love it even better when it's winning and blowing stuff up.

I have only one problem with this flick, and it's not in the presentation. It's only that...what kind of idiot thinks any mechanic worth his salt wouldn't know every bolt and weld on his baby of a race car...and wouldn't look said baby over before sending it out into the world? Pssh. Said idiots deserved what they got, if for no other reason than such gross underestimation of a mechanic's powers of observation. Geez.



At 7:48 AM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

hehehe what I want to see is a "gladiator" football game, where the losers are decapitated as in the ancient Mayan ballgame. Well, maybe not, because then we certainly wouldn't have a Chefs team, now would we.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

The original Death Race was pretty damn funny, too. It did have a bit of social commentary in it (also damn funny) like when the doctors and nurses wheeled the patients into the road so that the driver could gain points--and he drove over the staff doing that instead!

I am waiting for this one to show up in my 'hood. Seeing as there's just one theater in the whole County (the largest one in the state, too) it might be when it's released for sale, lol.

And while I have thought since the 70s we were heading toward the Bread & Circuses phase of the American Empire, I don't mistake good fun for same. In other words, you make a lot of sense here in the old rant.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

WW, you crack me up! I was trying NOT to rant. Oops!

I may think we're headed a certain direction, but I certainly don't think a movie -- especially not a single one -- is sending us that way. I guess I'm just irritated at critics (and protestors) who seem to forget that a movie's basic purpose is entertainment instead of social commentary or enlightenment or redemption. And that they're not real. Such a simple concept, that, but it's forgotten all the time. Oi.

And yeah, I never saw Death Race 2000, but it left its mark on me all the same. "Look! An old person! 20 points! Ha!"


And Sis...I'm not so sure we have a Chiefs team now. *sigh* Maybe its the people in charge who should be beheaded instead of the players themselves. *snerk*


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