Death of the Critic

Why Did I Watch That? - Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Written by: Tom Blaich


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Camp is a very interesting thing. It’s not something that you can actively seek out when making a movie. It has to come naturally, falling into your lap sometime during the process, with a certain level of self-awareness about what is being created. Unfortunately, too many movies try way too hard to be campy, and it normally leads to disastrous results and terrible movies.
Death Race 2000 managed to become a cult classic based partly around its camp, but also with a good deal of biting commentary and satire. But with the 2017 follow-up, the creators tried way too hard to capture lightning in a bottle a second time around. Instead of a cult classic, they just had a broken bottle, and a bad movie.

There are a few moments that do manage to land in the midst of this all, like two of the female characters sharing a late night drink at the Bechdel Bar, but unfortunately these few fun moments are mired down amidst rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and more. Sometimes it feels like they maybe intended to make some sort of commentary with these moments, and once or two it managed to slip through, but it appears that they forgot to include the rest before they finished the movie. The characters are all one note, mean stereotypes you’ll have seen time and time again: a racist caricature of a rapper, a hyper-masculine closeted gay man, a religious nut with a god complex, and the cold, unfeeling “badass” of a main character who we are supposed to like and root fore, even though he comes across as a giant asshole.

The movie itself looks terrible, splattered with low-budget gore, terrible CGI explosions, and awful cars that are somehow supposed to look cool. By limiting itself to the same aesthetic as
Death Race 2000, it just makes itself feel dated and under budgeted the day that the new movie released. It leans too heavily into the campy, cult aesthetic and it utterly failed to pull it off.

The plot is basic, and follows the same outline as every other
Death Race movie. There is a deadly automobile race, a Frankenstein driving a fast car and wearing a weird mask, a sexy sidekick, and a big, bad ruler that needs to have a car smashed into them as fast as possible. There are no surprises along the way, a little substandard cursing and poorly written dialogue, and you have a Death Race movie.

Easily the worst film out of this “storied” franchise (
which is really saying something after the prequel), Death Race 2050 thinks that by being edgy and low budget, people will like it. And it is entirely possible some will. This idea is more successful for some movies, but they have a fundamentally good movie to back up this aesthetic. Whereas this… well this has Malcolm McDowell, along with a whole host of other people that you really can’t bring yourself to care about. It tries to mix in commentary on the government, virtual reality, and fake news, but ultimately it fails on all three counts.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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