Hey, wasn't this guy in "Dick Tracy"?
It's no secret that I love George Romero's “...of the Dead” series of movies. I even like the new set of “Dead” movies that have come out in the past few years, though not as much as the original trilogy. One of the reasons why I started doing this blog is to watch horror movies that I have always wanted to see, but never had to chance to. Another reason is to see less popular movies by directors I love. Sure, just about everyone knows that George Romero is the father of the zombie genre, but what about his other movies? I previously reviewed one of his non-zombie movies, Monkey Shines and while it wasn't ahmazing, I still enjoyed it for what it was. I might as well check out another Romero movie.
Bruiser is a 2000 horror film written and directed by George Romero (Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead) and starring Jason Flemyng (Snatch, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) as Henry Creedlow. Harry works at a fashion magazine called Bruiser under the abrasive and uncouth owner, Milo Styles (Peter Stomare, Fargo, The Big Lebowski). Henry tries his best to create a happy life with his wife Janine (Nina Garbiras, The Nanny Diaries, You Can Count On Me), despite an unfinished house and not having as much money as he once thought. People have walked on Henry all his life, but he lets things go. Despite his efforts, he goes fairly unnoticed at both work and at home, though he does have a good connection with Rosemary (Leslie Hope, Human Cargo, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Milo's wife. At a party, Rosemary hands Henry a white, featureless mask to paint, but before he can, he spies Janine cheating on him with Milo. That night, he mentions seeing them, but Janine verbally abuses Henry and drives away, eliciting no response from him. The next morning, Henry wakes up to discover that his face has been replaced by the featureless mask from the party. Scared and confused, Henry observes his housekeeper stealing. Rather than letting it go like he used to, Henry kills her in a fit of rage. At the Bruiser office, Milo is caught having sex with Janine by Rosemary. While Milo tries to explain himself to her, Henry confronts Janine. He wraps an extension cord around her neck and throws her out a window. Det. McCleary (Tom Atkins, Creepshow, Escape From New York) investigates her death, believing Henry might be the culprit despite Rosemary being seen at the building. Now a featureless blank slate, Henry is free to express himself and take revenge on those who have wronged him. Henry has lived his life as an anonymous nobody, but now everybody knows that he is a killer. Will Det. McCleary be able to stop him and what will happen to Henry if he completes his revenge?
Joan Rivers in her most convincing role ever
It's no secret that George Romero loves social commentary as it is on full display in Bruiser. The movie brings to mind Arthur Miller's play, “Death Of A Salesman.” Both Willie Lowman and Henry Creedlow are down on their luck with their world's slowly crumbling around them. Even their names are thinly-veiled descriptions of who they are. By replacing the main characters face, Romero allows the audience to project whatever they want on to the main character, but it will most likely be their own face. Doing so provides both satisfaction and disgust as we, the audience, may want to gain revenge, but acknowledge that we can never lose control. It's this loss of control that is scary, far scarier than anything else in the movie. Somewhere along the line, the movie forgets to be a horror film and focuses more on the revenge fantasy. I mean, the poster says “Meet the new face of terror” but there is no real terror to speak of in the movie, unless we're getting abstract. While I understand the significance of having Henry work at a modelling magazine, it seemed out of place for a movie in the year 2000. That type of setting would fit better for the 80's or even early 90's.
Jason Flemyng was a good choice for his role as he is fairly nondescript without a lot of face or name recognition. His soft, monotone voice is perfect for the role, making him all the more creepier. Peter Stomare is purposely over the top, but is almost to wild to believe. Tom Atkins plays his part well enough, but I feel like Romero was trying to go with an old-school film noir style with his character. Det. McCleary says “dame” so many times I expect him to be in black and white. There is also a cameo towards the end by the legendary horror punk band, The Misfits. They contributed songs to the soundtrack and appeared in the movie in exchange for Romero directing a video for their song “Scream”. The movie has plenty of Romero touches with it's bleak outlook and showcase of ugly people. The ending is a bit disappointing with no real lessons learned. It was far too simple for a movie with complicated social commentary. The movie does drag a bit in-between killings, which should have been more plentiful. There is some blood and violence, but there really should have been more of it, just to show how far Henry has changed from mild-mannered to bloodthirsty lunatic.
Bruiser is a clever movie with smart social commentary. The action is limited, despite focuses on revenge. The movie needed a lot more blood and gore than was provided. Even though it was billed as a horror movie, there isn't much horror and no scary scenes. Romero does a good job of bringing his brand of storytelling to the screen, though some of the dialogue and characters are too over-the-top. Jason Flemyng is very good in his role and the makeup used for his blank face looks very good, allowing him to emote properly without much room for actual expression. Though not as good as his zombie movies, George Romero still manages to make Bruiser entertaining for what it is.