The Jason Statham Sci-Fi Remake Everyone Forgot

By Chad Langen | Updated

Death Race (2008)

Known for his commanding screen presence and unparalleled physical abilities, Jason Statham has solidified his status as one of the world’s most prominent action stars, boasting a diverse filmography that spans various genres and years. Among his extensive body of work, the 2008 film Death Race often flies under the radar, even though it’s a remake of the 1975 movie Death Race 2000. Despite its relatively modest recognition, the film stands as a commendable action flick worth checking out.

Death Race, starring Jason Statham, came and went from theaters without much fanfare, but it’s a fun popcorn flick.

Death Race 2000 is set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian government controls the United States. In the film, a cross-country road race known as the Transcontinental Road Race is held, where drivers earn points by running over pedestrians along the way. The story follows the racers as they compete in this deadly race while the government promotes it as a form of population control and entertainment.

In Death Race, Jason Statham steps into the role of Jensen Ames, a character thrust into the nightmarish confines of Terminal Island Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison. This bleak institution offers inmates a grim chance at freedom through participation in a televised spectacle known as Death Race. Within this twisted competition, prisoners modify their cars with lethal weapons and armor, engaging in brutal on-track warfare, all for the macabre entertainment of a bloodthirsty audience.

Jason Statham in Death Race

Jason Statham’s character finds himself reluctantly enmeshed in this brutal world, a realm where adaptability is paramount for survival. He races against formidable adversaries, including the likes of Machine Gun Joe and the cold-blooded psychopath Panchenko. However, beneath the relentless vehicular carnage lies Ames’s personal quest—to unearth the truth behind his wrongful conviction and deliver justice to those responsible.

You might think a film about racing might rob Jason Statham of a chance to kick someone, but you’d be wrong.

The unfolding narrative of Death Race is an unrelenting barrage of action sequences, explosive car chases, and intense combat. Ames’s journey is not merely about securing victory in the race but also involves navigating treacherous obstacles, outsmarting ruthless rivals, and confronting a corrupt system perpetuating this brutal sport. The film deftly combines high-octane spectacle with a vengeance-fueled storyline, delivering a gripping and visceral cinematic experience that showcases Jason Statham’s signature tough-guy charisma in a heart-pounding setting.

Death Race

Behind the heart-pounding stunts and the gripping narrative of Death Race lies a surprising team of talented actors and a skilled crew. Joining Jason Statham in the cast are accomplished individuals such as Joan Allen as Warden Hennessey, Tyrese Gibson as Machine Gun Joe, Ian McShane as Coach, Jason Clarke as Ulrich, and Natalie Martinez as Case. Helmed by director Paul W.S. Anderson, renowned for his expertise in action-packed films like the Resident Evil series and backed by the production prowess of Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, the movie benefits from a team well-versed in the intricate art of the action genre.

Jason Statham has had bigger hits than Death Race’s $76 million, but he’s also had plenty of films that perform worse at the box office.

Despite the formidable cast and crew, Death Race garnered a mixed reception among critics upon its release. While Statham’s performance and the film’s action sequences earned praise, some critics found fault with its formulaic plot and perceived shortcomings in character development. The movie currently holds a 41 percent approval rating among professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes, a stark contrast to its more favorable 60 percent audience rating.

In terms of box office performance, Death Race achieved a respectable outcome, grossing approximately $76 million, surpassing its $45 million budget. This accomplishment is notable, especially considering the competitive environment it faced with releases like Tropic Thunder and The House Bunny. While it may not have shattered records, Death Race firmly established itself as a worthwhile addition to the action genre, bolstered by Jason Statham’s star appeal, gripping storyline, and pulse-pounding vehicular mayhem.