Death Race: Beyond Anarchy
Universal // Unrated // $22.98 // October 2, 2018
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted November 20, 2018
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Graphical Version

Universal continues its updated Death Race series, based on the 1975 movie, with this latest entry Beyond Anarchy and the title certainly describes it well. While the second and third movies took place before the first, this one takes place afterwards and moves the action to a huge walled-in prison city called "The Sprawl" where convicts live and rule with little interference from the outside. The tradition of the masked star racer "Frankenstein" continues even with his identity still unknown (the previous movies showed that different people have assumed his persona)- here he's basically the king of the whole colony and it's best to stay on his good side. The Death Races are still held within the prison walls (covering about 130 square miles) for the entertainment of the inmates and fans outside, although that has now been declared illegal instead of sanctioned by the private corporation running the prisons as in the previous movies. With little supervision on the inside, there isn't much to stop them anyways, but the higher-ups still decide that the whole thing is making them look bad and try to put a stop to it. They figure having Frankenstein killed in public view will at least be a good start, but find that easier said than done after an effort to just run in and shoot him goes horribly wrong.

Enter new prisoner Connor Gibson (Zach McGowan), who is actually a Black Ops specialist sent in undercover to take out Frankenstein. He proves himself in front of the other inmates fairly quickly as he kicks some serious butt when confronted, and seeks out Baltimore Bob (Danny Glover) who is essentially taking the place of Danny Trejo's Goldberg as the wise old gearhead to help him enter the Death Race where he hopes to accomplish his task. Goldberg still puts in a few token appearances here as a bookie in Mexico City (where he escaped to previously) watching the races from the outside. The obsessive Lists (Fred Koehler, who I was just surprised to learn was one of the kids in 1983's Mr. Mom) is still here, hanging out with Bob and spouting off statistics.

So there's a bit of old and new here, which will please fans of the previous movies but likely won't win any new ones from those who didn't like them. The change of location is welcome, as is the departure from the video-game-like atmosphere- there are no "power-ups" to drive over here. The action is still very comic-book like, but as Connor Zach McGowan plays him rather straight without trying to appear as "large" as the previous heroes. The Blu-Ray and DVD present the movie in an "Unrated & Unhinged" version with some rather graphic violence and gratuitous nudity- unlike the last three there is no other version included. The disc includes a notice that the movie was "modified from its original version to include material not in the original release" but that original version doesn't seem to be available anywhere- like the other sequels this was not released theatrically, and all of the "digital" options for this movie also show this version as the only one available.

Picture, Sound and Subtitles:

Picture is full-frame 1.78 ratio with most scenes conveying a cold color scheme. The Blu-Ray is nicely detailed with no compression artifacts although I did spot a bit of tell-tale signs of the digital equipment used to shoot this- additionally it's easy to see that smaller, less sophisticated cameras were used for some of the more difficult shots (like under passing cars and close-ups of crashes) as was done in the third movie. It seems they were going for a ‘raw' look here which is fine although film would have done a better job at that. The included DVD looks heavily compressed in comparison.

Audio is a 5.1 mix in DTS Master Audio (standard Dolby Digital on the DVD), which is action-packed but falls a bit short from the surround-heavy mix of the third movie. Dialogue gets drowned out by the sound effects in a few scenes. French and Spanish dubs are included, as well as subtitles in those languages and hearing-impaired English subs.

Extras:

A conversational commentary track with director and co-writer Don Michael Paul (who has directed several other direct-to-video sequels for Universal) and star Zach McGowan, talking about the production and co-stars seeming that this was a fun movie to shoot. A few short featurettes are also included, each running under five minutes: "Inside the Anarchy" is a basic making-of piece which gives you a good look at things (although taking place in the US, the movie was actually shot in Bulgaria), "Time Served: Lists & Goldberg" talks bit about Koehler and Trejo's characters who have been in all of the previous entries, and "On the Streets of Death Race" which looks at the cars. Both discs open with trailers for Dead Again in Tombstone and Cult of Chucky.

Final Thoughts:

The Death Race franchise seems pretty played-out at this point, but as a direct-to-video sequel Beyond Anarchy is as good mindless fun as the previous entries.



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