By Glenn Dunks
May 12, 2014
‘Lean, mean fighting machine’ is an apt way to describe both Josh C. Waller’s Raze and the characters populating it. It’s a slickly produced, no holds barred action film that puts flesh to flesh in a violent frenzy of faux female empowerment and quickly loses whatever pulpy, sleazy grindhouse effect it may have been going for. About on par with the exploitation flicks of the 1970s it seeks to update, Raze is still far below other recent efforts to recreate this era such as Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Mark Hartley’s Patrick.
Waking up in a cell, Sabrina (Zoë Bell) discovers she is one of 50 women who’ve been kidnapped and blackmailed into competing in a fight-to-the-death competition. Only one will leave alive, and even though several form friendships, it quickly becomes a case of kill or be killed. Sabrina faces an onslaught of foes that include Jamie (Rachel Nichols), Teresa (Tracie Thoms), Rachel (Rosario Dawson), and the particularly unhinged Phoebe (Rebecca Marshall), before discovering the truth behind her situation.
With his debut feature, director Waller shows a flair for filming fight choreography – although some of the picture is so dingily lit that it’s hard to tell who’s who – but simply doesn’t have enough meat on the bones of his own screenplay to make a compelling movie. Waller pays lip service to genre fans with the hiring of Bell, Thoms, and Dawson (all three appeared in Death Proof), as well as the casting of cult actors Sherilyn Fenn and Doug Jones as the overlords of the evil enterprise that brought these women together. Unfortunately, the reveal of their evil plan lacks imagination and has been done before and better.
Given that Bell has such a distinct personality, it’s disappointing that the director has chosen to take that all away and focus purely on the physical. While this may prove fleetingly entertaining, Raze ultimately becomes little more than a tiresome endurance test that relies far too much on the skills of the New Zealand stunt woman turned actor. Still, much like a less accomplished The Raid, some viewers may respond to its bloody, take-no-prisoners style.
Raze will be available from Quickflix on May 14, 2014.