Film Review: RAZE (directed by Josh Waller / World premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 25, 2013

in Film

SNUFF PORN, BUT WITHOUT THE SEX

Zoe Bell (of Death Proof fame) plays Sabrina, an ex-soldier forced to fight for her life in Josh Waller’s Raze, which, except for a clever little twist at the beginning and generally well-orchestrated fight sequences, is pretty much as idiotic as movies get. The premise of Robert Beaucage’s inane script is that beautiful, athletic women – who are all proficient in mixed martial arts to some degree – are kidnapped and made to battle each other to the death for the viewing pleasure of a secret society, which purports, quite bizarrely, to be pro female empowerment; if a contestant loses, her family is murdered; if she refuses to fight she is murdered along with her family.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema film review of "Raze," directed by Josh Waller.

Mr. Waller’s misogynistic yet oddly puritanical creation has all the combatants wearing sports bras under white tank-tops, and gray sweatpants with the waistband rolled down just one notch, their pant legs pulled up – outfits more suited for going to a Los Angeles Starbuck’s on a Sunday morning than for a death match. This combination of Barbie Doll sexuality – or asexuality – and extreme violence seems to suggest a world view in which it’s ok for gorgeous women to beat one another literally into bloody pulp as long as they aren’t depicted in overtly sexual ways. The existence of this film feels like a curious, if inadvertent, commentary on the sensibilities of the modern hipster-eunuch male, who no longer sees women as sexual objects as in decades past, but as perfectly built, powerful automatons without nipples or sex organs.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema film review of "Raze," directed by Josh Waller.

Not that inserting scenes of sex would have improved the quality of this film, but having all the fighters looking like sports models and wearing outfits that coyly accentuate their figures, suggests the worst kind of cowardice and hypocrisy on the part of the filmmakers. But all of this, the absurd premise, the recycled ideas, the timid luridness, the depressing philosophy, it all could have been forgiven if Raze were an exciting, engaging spectacle. Unfortunately, key craft elements are lacking: Suspense is absent; the characters are hollow; and despite all the fighting there’s seldom a real sense that they’re struggling to overcome obstacles – we don’t learn anything meaningful about them from their fights. It doesn’t help that the script cheats, forcing personages to behave contrary to how they would in “real life” in order that the story can go where the filmmakers feel it needs to. No one ever does or says anything remotely intelligent or interesting in this picture and everything we need to know about it we learn in the first ten minutes.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema film review of "Raze," directed by Josh Waller.

photos © Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Raze
Cinipix in association with Quincy Pictures and XYZ Films
USA – 2013 – Color – 87 min.
World premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
for screening times, visit Tribeca

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema film review of "Raze," directed by Josh Waller.

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