Film Review: ‘Raze’

Raze Review

This brutally monotonous actioner centers around an all-female fight-to-the-death contest, but viewers of either gender may find themselves dying of boredom.

Unlikely to entertain anyone not thrilled by the invitation “Let’s watch chicks pummel each other!,” “Raze” is a brutally monotonous fight-to-the-death-contest actioner whose novelty element — all-female competitors — is undermined by lack of imagination on every other level. Vehicle for veteran stuntwoman Zoe Bell, who was showcased to far better effect in Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” entry “Death Proof,” feels like an homage to ’80s straight-to-video cheapies, one that’s missing any humor but faithfully reproduces the bare-bones production values. Its fortunes, too, will skew toward home formats; it launches on VOD and iTunes Jan. 10, simultaneous with Los Angeles/New York theatrical openings.

Sabrina (Bell) is the surviving frontrunner so far among an original 50 women with various advanced physical combat skills. Abducted, they wake up in an underground bunker, where they’re forced to kill each other in unarmed bouts for an unknown audience via live video. If they lose or refuse, their loved ones are killed, too — no idle threat, as the women view these murders as well as each other’s fights via closed-circuit TV in their cells. None of them are happy to dispatch fellow prisoners — that is, none save Phoebe (Rebecca Marshall), a career criminal who thoroughly enjoys inflicting great bodily harm.

Little happens beyond one bloody one-on-one match after another, staged in a dreary, brick-lined, dirt-floored pit. When not fighting for their lives, the unwilling competitors must deal with a bullying chief guard (Bruce Thomas) and the smarmy couple (Doug Jones, Sherilyn Fenn) who act as announcer-hosts. This duo’s vague comments about an “organization” going back centuries provides scant context or intrigue, particularly in contrast to the elaborate sociopolitical rationale behind the forced combat in the “Hunger Games” films. Of course, those movies have tens of millions more in production resources, but “Raze” can’t blame its budget for the paucity of interesting ideas in Robert Beaucage’s thin script. Even when the action moves above ground at last, the narrative finds no surprising directions in which to go.

Performances are OK, given the one-note character writing. Helmer Josh Waller’s debut feature (he’s since completed a second, “McCanick”) is professionally packaged, but there’s simply too little variety to the narrative, action, settings and everything else here to save most viewers from boredom.

Film Review: 'Raze'

Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Jan. 6, 2014. Running time: 92 MIN.

Production

An IFC Midnight release of an IFC Midnight and Cinipix presentation in association with Quincy Pictures and XYZ Films. Produced by Zoe Bell, Kenny Gage, Andrew Pagana, Josh Waller. Executive producers, Allene Quincy, Rachel Nichols, Bill Ceresia, Mathew Hayden. Co-producers, Hunter S. Ellis, Louis Iacoviello, Robert Beaucage.

Crew

Directed by Josh Waller. Screenplay, Robert Beaucage, from a story by Kenny Gage, Waller, Beaucage. Camera (color, HD), Dylan O'Brien; editor, Brett Bachman; music, Frank Riggio; production designer, Rob Howeth; set decorator, Kate Hofsommer; costume designer, Rachel Burt; sound, Ricardo Garza; supervising sound editor, Jeffrey Dyal; re-recording mixers, Gregory King, Jon Greasley; stunt/fight coordinator, James Young; assistant director, Heather Denton.

With

Zoe Bell, Rachel Nichols, Tracie Thorns, Bruce Thomas, Bailey Anne Borders, Rebecca Marshall, Allene Quincy, Adrienne Wilkinson, Doug Jones, Sherilyn Fenn, Amy Johnston, Tara Macken, Nicole Steinwedell, Jordan James Smith, C.M. Schwartzy, Andrew Pagana, Brianna Gage, Kelly Thiebaud.

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  1. And lets not just complain that this film is boring, because to many US males, brutal violence-porn against women is pleasurable. That is why we should all be disturbed about the probability that this film will be a cult hit.. with already thousands of FB followers just 3 days since its release.
    Let’s talk about the fact that this movie is offensive to women with its misogyny and degradation, and that it directly caters to the twisted minds who now clamor for female bloodsport and violence against women as entertainment.
    Violence-porn is actually the development of a sexual fetish. Men typically crave increasingly violent acts both in portrayals and extreme sports, and mesh sexual gratification and violence against the woman’s body.
    It is disguised as arguments for “empowerment and equality” and those who speak out against this violence are immediately attacked as being old fashioned and out of touch.
    Guys, if you are a huge fan of this kind of entertainment, let a fit blond chick tell you…..you’re repulsive, unmanly, and pathetic.
    Ladies, stay away from these guys….don’t hook up with one, unless you aspire to be calling the FBI for the next cannibal cop case in a few years, when you see what extreme violence he is into.

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