Loosely based on 1975's Death Race 2000 this violent video-game-come-to-life takes place in 2012.
America is on the verge of financial collapse and crime is rampant. Private corporations have taken over the prison system and to make money, they run elaborate auto races with inmates as drivers and sell the show to the public on pay-per-view.
Jason Statham plays Jensen Ames, an out-of-work ex-auto racer who is framed for his wife's murder and ends up at Terminal Island. The prison looks like a string of old warehouses at the end of the world. A long, narrow bridge connects to the island and there's not much hope of anyone ever getting out.
Hard nosed Warden Hennessesey (played by Joan Allen who has a good ole time as a despicable witch) runs the Death Races, and she offers any driver living through a certain number of races his freedom.
After her star driver, a mask-wearing dude named Frankenstein, is killed she persuades Ames to take his place in order to keep the paying public happy.
Every driver wants to get out of the hell hole, so it's a race to the death for many. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson who has the pieced together machines, along with beautiful co-pilots provided by the women's prisons careen down winding courses which are booby trapped and dangerous. The drivers shoot, throw nails, toss car parts and slip napalm to get the edge on an opponent. Driving over the other guy is allowed, even encouraged - there are no rules.
Ian McShane effectively plays a mechanic and Tyrese Gibson is Ames' rival. Statham is a man of few words; he's quiet and buff and real cool.
If crashes and explosions and violent deaths are your thing, this is the film for you. I must admit for all its schlock thrills, it is pretty entertaining.