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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad85.71%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating

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by Jay Seaver

"Fine fighting females, fairly flat film."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The problem with "Raze", ultimately, is that it's boring. It's got a good cast that executes some good action, but this is a movie that lacks one single moment of surprise in its stupid story. And when a movie has already drained all the fun out of its action in the name of realism and non-exploitation, that just leaves violence. And violence, in and of itself, isn't a particularly fun way to spend an hour and a half at the movies.

That basic story has a number of young women kidnapped, imprisoned, shown that their loved ones are being watched and forced to fight to the death. Sabrina (Zoe Bell), Jamie (Rachel Nichols), and Teresa (Tracie Thoms) seem like tough but otherwise-decent folks; Cody (Bailey Anne Borders) is younger and more scared compared to the rest and Phoebe (Rebecca Marshall) is psychopath enough to enjoy it. There's forty-odd more, plus the likes of Joseph (Doug Jones) and Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn) as the leaders of the secret society that's doing this for some damn reason.

"Arena" movies like Raze require a lot of suspension of disbelief - it's one thing when this is going down in a woman's prison or some lawless third-world hole, but kidnapping fifty women, holding them, hiring people to watch and potentially execute their families, getting the presumably-wealthy people who want to watch and wager on the spectacle either on-site or via a secure internet connection... Forget the difficulty of doing all this in secret and just consider the kind of resources it would take. How can it be profitable? Plus, if there's a purpose to it besides amusement, killing 98% of the people you're interested in is not very efficient!

So, the idea is dumb, but it can be fun if the filmmakers know that the story is secondary, and the audience is there for skin or blood or the crazy action. But, no, director Josh C. Waller and his co-writers are playing things pretty straight - the ladies are all wearing sensible outfits for an athletic competition, and while there's some drama in the idea of what sort of psychic damage being told to kill or be killed (along with your family) can do, multiplying it by fifty pushes it into absurd territory, especially since there's not a whole lot of room for variance with everybody under the same threat. So the movie just becomes a series of fights, announced by title cards, that each have exactly the same thing on the line, occasionally interspersed with title cards. Waller and company occasionally switch it up with escape attempts and bonding between the non-Phoebe characters, but they all happen at exactly the moment one might expect. It makes things a grind.

That leaves the fights themselves, and give Waller, fight choreographer James Young, and company credit - they can stage a brawl. There's not a whole lot of variety in settings or fighting styles - the idea is not to do a bunch of "muay thai vs. karate" showdowns, but to show a bunch of desperate people giving their all. It works well enough on that count, and I suspect it will be even more impressive in other venues (the projection was pretty dark in this case, making things tough to see at times). The big final fight, where things open up a bit more, is at least a worthy climax, and there is little-to-no doubling, with most of the actresses doing their own stunts, resulting in the filmmakers not having to cover for much.

Of course, in some cases you might well be saying that the stuntwomen are doing their own acting; Zoe Bell has become an actress worth noting because people know about her stuntwork, and she's solid in both counts here. Bell's Death Proof co-star Tracie Thoms and the rest of the cast, including Nichols and another fairly recognizable actress present for little more than a cameo, handle their jobs well, with less-familiar faces Rebecca Marshall and Bailey Anne Borders getting noticed. Doug Jones and Sherilyn Fenn are kind of peculiar as the apparent masterminds behind this - they're weird but not weird enough to be really memorable villains, with Bruce Thomas occasionally upstaging them as the chief guard.

I suppose "Raze" gets the job done, if the job is just serving up a stream of women in hand-to-hand combat. It feels like it needs something more, though, whether it be sleaze, twists (whether big things that change the whole story or small ones that give the audience surprises), or action scenes that are not just good but superlative. There's a spark missing, and it leaves something that should be fun and exciting on the dreary side.

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originally posted: 09/12/13 14:45:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/24/13 hadi i need to wootch this movie 5 stars
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