Any time a studio develops a straight to DVD sequel to a film, there is cause to be worried. Disney ruined franchises left and right in the 90s with cheap, slapped together animated offerings such as The Lion King 2 and multiple Aladdin titles. Today, the studios have realized that a quick way to make some easy cash is to produce a cheap copy of an existing name that people love, and wait for the checks to role in.
I am happy to report that Universal did not go this route with Death Race 2. The film tells the story of Carl "Luke" Lucas (Luke Goss), the first driver of the Frankenstein car seen in the first film. Lucas, serving time in prison after a bank heist gone bad, is quickly introduced to the prison-based entertainment show, Death Match. Starting out as a poor man's Running Man concept, once Lucas becomes involved it quickly evolves into the Death Race format that we all know and love today.
The prequel actually bests the Jason Statham remake of a couple of years ago in several ways, not least of which is the supporting cast. Sean Dean, Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo all bring to the film a grittiness and intensity that was missing. No one is going to take Tyrese Gibson seriously as a prison bad-ass, and thankfully the producers realized it by casting actors that are actually scary.
Luke Goss isn't quite the actor that Jason Statham is, and I would be lying if I didn't say that the film is hurt by Statham's absence. Goss, who can be seen in Hellboy II and Blade II, is given the chance to carry a film for the first time and does a heck of a job with it. Called on to play the muscleman with a soft spot, Goss gives us hope that there might be room for another young action star for the new millenium.
If you have been waiting on a fun, action packed movie to be released for a boy's night in, Death Race 2 is definitely worth a look.