Film Review


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Raze

Zoe Bell as Sabrina in Josh Waller's Raze. [Photo: IFC Midnight]

Raze

The thrill of seeing women beat the snot out of each other is about all that Raze offers, though for a lean, efficient 83-minute genre picture like this, that turns out to be just enough. Josh Waller's film opens with Jamie (Rachel Nichols) awakening in a red corridor that she navigates while remembering her date from the night before. Confronted by Sabrina (Zoe Bell), another apparent captive dressed in an identical white tank top and pair of gray sweatpants, Jamie suddenly finds herself fighting against, and being beaten to death by, Sabrina in a circular brick-walled arena. It turns out that Jamie is merely the latest to perish in a weeklong competition staged by some wacko secret organization run by Joseph (Doug Jones) and wife Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn) that that aims to offer some sort of ill-defined "empowerment" to the last woman standing in this lethal game. Driven by Joseph's apparently real threat that their loved ones, who are under video surveillance by the villain, will be slaughtered should they choose not to participate, or wind up losing, Sabrina and her fellow inmates are thus compelled to bare-knuckle brawl to the death for the enjoyment of Joseph, Elizabeth, sadistic security guard Kurtz (Bruce Thomas), and a gaggle of well-dressed gala attendees who view this sadistic spectacle on closed-circuit HDTV.

There's little moral dilemma to this scenario. Given no options other than kill or be killed (along with your relatives), Sabrina chooses to do the necessary dirty work in order to save herself and the daughter she gave up for adoption years earlier, and who's now under constant surveillance by Joseph's cronies. Screenwriter Robert Beaucage populates his story with a variety of different types (the good girl, the unhinged lunatic, the sacrificial altruist, the raging psycho) whose differences help moderately spice up what amounts to a series of battles, all prefaced by title cards introducing the combatants.

Despite a moderate dose of crazed blather about ancient rites and womanly strength, Raze leaves the background particulars about this competition oblique, partly because it adds a layer of ominous mystery, but primarily because it doesn't matter; witnessing women-on-women violence is the thing here, regardless of any narrative context. Underlying issues of female oppression, and rebellion against such subjugation, are for the most part allowed to emerge simply through the film's many bouts of fisticuffs, which are staged with viciousness and visual clarity by Waller. Still, the main attraction is Bell, a beauty with ferocity in her eyes and brutality in her fists who ultimately proves a ferocious figure of feminine rage.

Director(s): Josh Waller Screenwriter(s): Robert Beaucage Cast: Zoe Bell, Rachel Nichols, Rebecca Marshall, Tracie Thoms, Bailey Anne Borders, Allene Quincy Distributor: IFC Midnight Runtime: 87 min Rating: NR Year: 2013

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