Dreading: Death Race

You maniacs - you screwed it up. (Or to put it another way - I'm almost positive you are screwing it up)

Back in the day (1975), schlockmeister extraordinaire Roger Corman brought out an astoundingly awesome piece of exploitation cinema called Death Race 2000. It told the tale of an America run by a vaguely fascistic single party government who keep the population entertained and in line with a violent gladiatorial tv spectacle, the Transcontinental Road Race.

The race features an assortment of heavily weaponised cars and is won based on finishing time (from the East to the West coast of America) as well as number of pedestrians run over. Beyond this, there are pretty well no rules and the racers - macho drivers teamed with hotty navigators - are free to do what they wish to eliminate competitors from the race.

As you often find in more marginalised sci-fi exploitation type films, there are buckets of pointed social commentary, sweetened with a tasty coating of blood and guts and explosions.

But don't take my word for it, check out the trailer. (And yes, that is David - Kung Fu - Carradine and Sylvester Stallone)

Ok, so what's the problem - so far so awesome right?

Well, now I read that there is a remake - well more of a re-imagining - coming out around December this year. At first glance you'd think, ok, Jason (The Transporter) Stratham - brings the action and Ian (Deadwood) McShane - brings the grittiness. And ooh, who's that directing - Paul Anderson - the guy behind Magnolia, Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood - kick arse.

Oh wait - that's Paul Thomas Anderson - the director of Death Race is actually Paul W.S Anderson, director of Mortal Kombat, Alien Vs Predator and Resident Evil. (Actually I didn't hate any of these but alarm bells are already starting to ring.)

Let's let the trailer pick up the Death Race story.

Where to start?

The Death Race is now a private enterprise (so it's not the Government or powers-that-be that are the bad guys behind this) and it's just within the confines of a prison (so "the innocent" are no longer at risk). There's a man imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit (so he has to race, it's not because he wants to) and I'm not really sure that I can go on - it's just too disappointing.

I can accept that you don't want to make a shot for shot remake of an old film - there's nothing wrong with tweaking it for a modern audience and to make better use of modern technology - but for the love of all that is holy - why completely throw out an edgy story for a bunch of recycled cliches. Prisoners being used in cruel and unusual gladiatorial tv spectacle - check. Evil prison warden - check. Uber-talented innocent hero framed for the murder of his wife to draft him into the sport du jour - check.

Don't even get me started on the use of Guns'n'Roses' Welcome to the jungle as a large part of the trailer soundtrack. Seriously. Do not go there.


Oh and one more thing - from the looks of this, the cars are all racing around a track inside the prison - what exactly is the need for navigators?

Who could be behind this? Who hates cult cinema that much?

And then the penny drops - Tom Cruise, of all people, is one of the main producers of this film.

I've been prepared to forgive Tom a lot over the years - all the $cientology guff (ok, most of it), causing Our Nicole to dump him and essentially playing the same character in film after film after film. He has still managed to pull out some impressive work (particularly in the previously mentioned Magnolia) and so I'll let the other stuff slide.

But no more.

Damn you Cruise, damn you to wherever $cientology hell is.