Death Race: Inferno (2013)

(On Cable TV, May 2014) The narrative pedigree of this film is prodigiously confusing (it’s the sequel to a prequel to a remake), but the results are surprisingly entertaining, especially considering the production values of this direct-to-video effort. Helmed by the cost-effective and visually audacious Roel Reiné, Death Race 3: Inferno squeezes every dollar out of its limited budget for maximum impact. This is a B-grade action film by every measure, so it’s almost surprising to see the cleverness of the script (which manages to find something interesting to say in-between the space left by a prequel and a sequel), the unexpected charm of the actors, the impressive production values and the engaging pacing of the whole. Death Race 3 makes maximum use of its South African shooting location by featuring fantastic local visuals, and relying on captivating local talent for pivotal roles (most notably Hlubi Mboya as game-master “Satana” or Roxane Hayward as a mousy assistant). There are plenty of contrivances and outrageous use of exploitation devices –the nadir being the sadistic “navigator wars” segment. But the backbone of those films, the stunts and visuals, are as accomplished as one could expect from this kind of production, and Death Race 3: Inferno becomes decent entertainment no matter its budget class. You’ll know from the Death Race title whether you’re likely to enjoy it or not.

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