Stay on the path, or you will die! If you are lapped twice, you will die! Race, or you will die!
As you could probably tell from a few of my reviews in the past, I love watching films that are pretty much presenting original ideas, and whilst everyone fighting each other in order to survive is a story that’s as old as time, literally racing against each other is a completely new idea as far as I am aware.
I’ve reviewed a few films in the past, such as Circle, in which everyone has to work together whilst ultimately knowing that only one of them will survive. I loved the whole aspect of people having to deal with that ultimately consequence, whilst ultimately trying to prolong their own survival. It was a great look at Darwinism, i/e survival of the fittest.
That being said, a lot of other films that I’ve seen of a “everyone for themselves” style film have been very sketchy. “Battle Royale” is comfortably the best in that category, hence why the Hunger Games franchise ripped it off, but other than that I can’t think of too many films in the category that would fall into the “good” side of the argument.
Eighty people wake up to find themselves trapped in an unknown environment and with a message playing that states that they are effectively in a race, and only one person will get out of the race alive. The contestants aren’t evenly matched, with some being elderly and/or disabled, and others being athletically built.
War veteran friends Justin (McCarthy-Boyington) and Eddie (McGee) stop several times along the way to help those less fortunate than themselves, such as Asian children and an elderly man (J Louis Reid). Upon finding the elderly man, they realise that he is about to die and try to keep everyone else from lapping him, although a cycling champion (Coury) tricks them and ends up killing a significant number of the field by lapping them.
It’s not just him though, with another group using the sign posts to kill anyone who they encounter. With only one winner and the field dwindling, to what lengths are some people willing to go in order to survive.
Worth the watch?
I’m just going to get this out of the way now, this will not be getting the approval stamp.
Whilst not an awful film at all, there are a lot of issues with the film itself, but I’m going to start with the aspects that I did actually like.
I love that the first few minutes of the film are focused on one character in particular and right there and then you think that she is obviously going to make it to the end….but as soon as the race starts she is killed, infact the race hasn’t even technically started yet and she steps on the grass, killing herself.
There are many examples throughout the film of characters who you thought would survive right until the end before then dying around half way through. I love the unpredictability of the whole thing in terms of when certain people would survive.. Having said that, I did manage to predict how the film would end. I obviously won’t go into it but what happens to the winner was kind of obvious and reminded me of the ending of how a film called “The Killing Room” ended.
It’s also very interesting that people are put in there that are quite clearly not evenly matched, such as a man who has to use a zimmer-frame in order to walk (he can’t even get off of the start line by himself), deaf people who obviously can’t communicate with other people, and various other little things like that. Much like the aforementioned “Circle”, it is an interesting look at society and the blatantly obvious way in that everyone could have survived if they had simply worked together reminded me a bit of the otherwise shockingly bad “Saw 5”.
However, almost ironically, for a film about people racing against each other there is a distinctive inconsistency with regards to pacing. In a very similar fashion to the TV show “Lost”, The Human Race spends a lot of it’s early time committing itself to telling you of the final few minutes of a person’s life before they were zapped (for lack of a better word) into the race.
Don’t get me wrong, establishing your characters is very important and arguably the main thing that I look for in a film, but even then they completely kill the momentum of the film by constantly going back to the flashback scenes. One in particular comes when the deaf couple are flashbacked, and all of a sudden you’ve gone from watching people race against each other to watching a deaf couple having a sign language conversation for a few minutes.
The best thing about films such as “Circle” was that the characters were developed without a need for flashbacks, yet “The Human Race” ruins it’s pacing throughout. The deaf pair, whilst not awful characters in any sense, kill the momentum whenever they are on screen.
The deaf couple are very unusual in the sense that they often sign to each other….even when the other person isn’t looking. If they’re not looking at you, and you can see that they’re not looking at you, what’s the point of signing when you know that the person you’re signing to won’t see it? There is also a strange moment when the deaf woman feels responsible for the death of another contestant and the subtitle reads “She died because of me”….but she’s not actually signing at the time. There is also a conversation about masturbating to porn in which there are subtitles…but neither of them are signing. It’s all very bizarre, especially when you see them having a very angry conversation after he attacks her with a hammer and then tries to rape her.
“The Human Race” also is very unclear on a lot of aspects, for example, one woman is shown walking in a daydream state, and yet she is comfortably ahead of people who set off before she did and were actually running, how did that happen? It just makes no sense that a woman who isn’t even really trying can someone outpace those that are clearly shown on numerous occasions to be running consistently. She should have died a lot time before she eventually does.
And the very aspect of the rules is also a bit unclear, it states that “if you are lapped, you will die,” however, it also states that various parts of the course are safe, so I would assume that that would mean that even if you’re lapped twice, if the second time comes whilst you’re one of the safe locations, that you remain alive. This turns out to be a lie as the athlete in the yellow shirt runs past a pair of Japanese kids, killing them.
It just shows that the rules are confusing and contradictory, something which some of the characters also point out, because you could in theory just keep everyone alive by all going to a safe location (which they attempt to do at various points), taking it in turns to do a lap, therefore the race is still theoretically going on and everyone survives.
“The Human Race” had the potential to be a very interesting film, but ultimately it is let down by it’s remarkably unclear nature, inconsistencies and the bizarre nature in which the deaf couple kill the momentum of the film whenever they are on screen.
Don’t get me wrong, “The Human Race” isn’t a truly awful film at all, I’ve seen far, far worse, but there are just too many issues for me to actually get anywhere near considering it for the “approved” badge.
If you’re going to watch it, go in with low expectations.