Death Race is a 2008 science-fiction-action film produced, written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and starring Jason Statham. Though referred to as a remake of the 1975 film Death Race 2000 (based on Ib Melchior's short story "The Racer") in reviews and marketing materials, director Paul W.S. Anderson stated in an interviewand the DVD commentary that he thought of the film as a prequel. A remake had been in development since 2002, though production was delayed by disapproval of early screenplays then placed in turnaround following a dispute between Paramount Pictures and the producer duo Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. Death Race was acquired by Universal Studios, and Anderson re-joined the project to write and direct. Filming began in Montreal in August 2007, and the completed project was released on August 22, 2008. The film received generally negative reviews from critics, but was a commercial success, making $75,677,515 worldwide. A direct-to-DVD prequel to the film, Death Race: Frankenstein Lives, is in production.
In 2012, the United States economy collapses. Unemployment and crime rates shoot through the roof. The imprisoned population becomes so vast that private corporations buy the prisons and run them for profit. In a federal prison called the Terminal Island Penitentiary, "Death Race", a gladiator-like fight-to-the-end racing competition is held to raise funds. It becomes the most-watched television/Internet event around the world. The film begins by showing a race near its end. Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson) and a famous masked driver known as Frankenstein (original Death Race 2000 star David Carradine) engage in a bloody battle in which Frankenstein wins, but at the cost of heavy injuries and eventually death. Six months later, Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), an ex-racecar driver and former steel mill worker, is framed for his wife's murder. Ames is sent to Terminal Island where he immediately becomes enemies with an Aryan brotherhood gang, led by Pachenko (Max Ryan). He is taken to Hennessey (Joan Allen), the penitentiary's warden, who tells him that the gang will kill him without her help. Thus he is coerced by the warden to become the new driver of the late Frankenstein's car. The warden tells Ames that she knows about his baby daughter left in foster care. She also states that prisoners are freed upon winning five Death Races, but since the legendary Frankenstein had 4 wins at the time of his death, he would only require a single win. He agrees to race. Hennessey then takes Ames down to the auto shop to meet crew chief Coach (Ian McShane) and his assistants Gunner (Jacob Vargas), a car repairman, and Lists (Frederick Koehler), a data collector. "Death Race" consists of three different stages. The first two stages are elimination rounds with the sole goal being to come out alive and to eliminate as much of the competition as possible. In each race, there are three activation switches, Swords, Shields, and Death Heads. These power-ups are in the form of lights on the ground that are activated when passed over by a car. Swords activate offensive weapons, shields activate defensive weapons, and death heads activate a spiked wall that impales the car and the racers inside. The wall then goes back into the ground, killing anyone inside. Before the race, Ames is introduced to Case (Natalie Martinez), his new female navigator. In the first race, Grimm is killed by Joe by being struck as a "pedestrian", resulting in a gruesome "head-exploding" shot. Jensen survives the race, killing one racer but coming in last place after Machine Gun Joe rammed into his car. It is then revealed that Hennessey had Pachenko murder Jensen's wife and frame him for it, in order to bring him to Terminal Island and make him the new Frankenstein. During the second race, the goal is again to survive. At the green signal, all but Ames race. He forces Case to come clean with the truth: Case sabotaged his rear weapons in exchange for a full pardon, claiming that she didn't mean to kill him, but he simply would not give up. She also states that Hennessey is plotting against Frankenstein, hoping to use his popularity to keep ratings up. A furious Ames then chases down and kills Pachenko, leaving his own vehicle and going out onto the track and executes him with his bare hands. Later in the event, much to the dismay of the racers, a gigantic 18 wheel tanker armed with a tank turret, called the Dreadnaught, is released. After killing multiple racers, the truck is destroyed when Joe and Ames team up to activate a Death Head that destroys the Dreadnaught. Hennessey is furious while Frankenstein is hailed a hero. In the third stage, Joe and Ames must race one final time to the winner. Prior to the race Hennessey has a bomb planted under Frankenstein's car, and then manipulates the race to favor Joe. However, her plans are ruined when Joe and Ames escape, blowing an opening in a weakened section of the prison wall which Jensen had discovered while studying footage of Grimm's death. Hennessey sends all her police force in pursuit, and when Ames manages to foil the police cars chasing them, Hennessey attempts to blow up his car with the bomb earlier planted. But Ames' crew apparently had discovered the bomb before the race, removed and deactivated it. Furious, Hennessey deploys the prison helicopters and succeeds in capturing Frankenstein's car. However, Ames had escaped from his car, leaving Case (who had already received her walking papers) at the wheel, dressed up in his costume. Joe and Ames hitch a freight train ride and escape to Miami. Meanwhile, Guard Captain Ulrich delivers a present to Hennessey in her office, a congratulatory gift from an unknown sender. Opening it she finds the bomb from the bottom of the Frankenstein's car, as she does Coach activates it and blows up the entire upper office, killing both Hennessey and Ulrich, he then turns to the camera and breaks the fourth wall, saying, "I love this game". Six months later south of the border, Ames has his daughter back and Joe is working on living a clean life free of crime. As the two work on a car in their new home, a car pulls up and Case steps out to join the two. Ames then narrates that despite all the problems he had in the past, no one could love his daughter more than he could.