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Submitted by on March 2, 2010 – 8:19 AMNo Comment

The best part of the Oscars Death Race project is the nice surprises: the films I expected to have to endure that gripped me instead.

I faced Ajami as one does a hated vegetable, and got a delicious stew instead. The story is meticulously put together, and unfolds in the manner of a Spirograph drawing; whether the Rashomon-esque structure crosses the line from formal into mannered is perhaps a matter of taste, but it worked for me, for two reasons: 1) a handful of events seen in retelling went in unexpected, but tidy, directions, and 2) the formality serves as a sort of elegy for the events themselves.

I'm purposefully vague to avoid spoiling not the plot, but the framework; it's worth a watch. American directors should take note that this is how you frame violence effectively, with as much quiet as loud banging and as much messy scuffling as operatic swoons backward. When it feels like a report instead of a story, you've done something right.

Sarah 44, Death Race 14; 12 of 24 categories completed

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