"Do you want to be in an Aryan gang?"
It's not a question I'm often asked. It's around 6PM in Phillipi, a large township 20 minutes east of Cape Town, South Africa. For the past few days, I've been assigned to hang around the set of 'Death Race 2,' the sequel to the 2008 Jason Statham film about prison officials who control overpopulation by staging lethal races between the prisoners.
On the last day of our trip, one of the film's producers asks if we want to be extras in a prison fight between Zander (Henie Bosman), leader of the aforementioned gang The Brotherhood, and 14K (Robin Shou), the head of the prison's Asian Triad gang. The jaded, mature critic in me briefly scoffs at the dangling carrot before being overtaken by the allure of fleeting screen time. There's an old cliché that all music journalists are failed musicians. While there's no exact parallel with film critics -– substitute directing for acting, I suppose -– I can see the same giddy, mischievous look in the eye of two of my peers on the trip. Where's wardrobe?
The rundown, industrial setting lends itself perfectly to the film's milieu, as the filmmakers can simply build the sets on top of the existing, decrepit backdrops. I'm told this was an abandoned cement factory built in 1930 that has been deteriorating since the company left in the 1960s. I believe it. Chips from crumbling buildings fall by your feet; countless pieces of exposed wrought iron grow like kudzu along the antiquated edifices; and debris, broken glass and empty beer bottles from long-forgotten brands litter the area. In other words: It's the ideal setting for a post-apocalyptic prison movie.