Death Race 3: Inferno Review
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The 2008 B-movie Death Race was surprisingly one of the better action films of that decade, largely eschewing CGI and shaky handheld cinematography in favor of practical stunts done with real cars and a handful of juicy, scenery-chewing performances by established character actors. The first direct-to-DVD prequel, Death Race 2, retained some of that flavor, dulled somewhat by a more restricted budget and less capable cast. Now, to bring the story closer to the beginning of the original film, we have a second prequel, Death Race 3: Inferno, clearly proving that the law of diminishing returns remains in full effect.

Death Race 2 introduced prisoner Carl Lucas (Luke Goss), falsely accused and the catalyst for the creation of the series’s titular competition. In that movie, he became the first to assume the identity of the masked driver known as Frankenstein after he was believed to have been killed. In Death Race 3: Inferno, corrupt businessman Niles York (Dougray Scott) takes over the race, intending to expand it worldwide. Moved to Africa for a new desert Death Race, Lucas must continue racing as Frankenstein in order to survive and hopefully secure his freedom.

For all of the complication of being a sequel to a prequel, the structure of the film remains simple: set up a handful of colorful action movie characters, stick them in heavily-armed vehicles reminiscent of the Mad Max movies, and start blowing as many things up as the budget will allow. This isn’t the sort of movie that requires much in the way of character or narrative development, which is good, since there’s practically none here. Goss and the rest of the cast—including returning B-team members Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames—do a serviceable job to a plot that follows the original nearly beat for beat.

As before, the members of the stunt team are the real stars of this show. The vehicle designs may be aging—and they’re clearly the victim of reduced production resources—but, in capable hands, they still get the job done. The explosions are doled out liberally, and there’s always some fun to be had in watching a real truck blasting sideways through a real building. The desert locations add some needed freshness to the proceedings as well, making for some beautifully-shot racing sequences.

At this point, though, it’s time to put this series to rest. There’s a brief setup at the end to wedge in yet another prequel/sequel if they want, but there’s really no good reason for it. Even fans of the series, few as they may be, have to be tiring of seeing the same thing slightly tweaked. While there’s just enough action here to please genre fans, Death Race 3: Inferno proves once again that even good concepts wear out, and this one is ready for the junk heap.

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