ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Bruiser (2001)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: George Romero

Starring:
Jason Flemyng/Henry
Leslie Hope/Rosemary
Peter Stormare/Miles
Nina Garbiras/Janine
PLOT-CRUNCH
Henry’s (Flemyng) life sucks more than mine. His wife (Garbiras) is a cheating whore, his boss (Stormare) is an arrogant a-hole who’s banging his wife and his best friend (Tarbet) is ripping him off. One morning Henry wakes up with a blank white mask instead of a face (representing his loss of self) and in order to find his identity again, he murders the people that have been repressing it.
THE LOWDOWN
Horror legend George Romero hasn’t made a film since "The Dark Half" in 1993 and I was really looking forward to his new project “Bruiser”. So was it worth the wait?

On the plus side, the film has a gnarly premise. Losing one’s face/personality is a powerful theme and the white mask idea is a perfect physical way to represent it. I loved that whole “fill in your blank canvas” thang! Romero communicates it flawlessly in the film by having Henry paint his own plain white face as he progressively finds himself. The film almost totally snows in its deeper aspects though. It eventually takes the more generic slasher route and gives us an unneeded (and un-explained) answer on whether or not the mask is really on his face. The film should’ve remained more subtle and ambiguous. Having said that, I sometimes still found myself quite affected and touched by the more psychological elements the flick slapped my way.

Character-wise, Henry the film’s lead is very endearing. I sympathized with him and Flemyng’s dead-on performance really helped. I also savored the relationship Henry had with Rosemary (Hope). She’s kind of a kindred spirit to the Henry character who’s going through the same emotional turmoil that he’s going through, but on a lesser level. Her whole fascination with masks is very symbolic and it helped to support the message that the movie was trying to communicate through out. Much like “American Psycho” the film also explores the superficiality of folks, their lack of true emotions (loved that suicide on the air and what Romero does with it), their selfishness and a man going insane in the middle of it all (loved the murder fantasies).

Unfortunately, there are many bad seeds that come to infest what could’ve been an impeccable, beautiful, bloody garden. First off, why the hell are most of the side characters in this flick annoying, despicable twits? I was hardcore rooting for most of the cast to die already! I was actually cursing out loud at these one-dimensional human demons constantly! Giving the “bad” characters more “color” would have made their death more powerful, hence disturbing. Here, everybody who dies more than deserves it and the only satisfaction that I got out of it was that they were shutting their big yaps up already. I felt nothing watching them croak. No excitement and not even a sense of retribution for poor Henry. That’s a shame.

Which brings me to the weak murder sequences themselves. Romero sure knows how to set up a kill here but when it comes down to the payoff, he chickens out. Except for the Janine offing, all of the kills were extremely un-satisfying, especially taking into account that I really couldn’t wait for these mooks to bite it. Romero even goes as far as sparing the annoying poodle…come on! I felt like a guy getting jerked off but not before being slapped a picture of Roseanne Barr in my face just before my peak. A LET DOWN.

My last irritation with the film is the sloppy ending. It takes place during this big costume party and for the life of me, I didn’t fully grasp what was going on here. Why were people always beating the shit out of each other? Who uses deadly lasers during a mass-populated event? What kind of fucked up party is this? Also, for all the costumes and weird happenings, the party sequence lacks mucho energy. Where was the tension? And to add insult to injury, the cops (led by Atkins) are laughably ineffectual and the last frame of the film is way too tongue in cheek. It didn’t gel at all with what I had just watched. Yes, I groaned.

Generally, the more ambitious a project, the more opportunities for one to stumble. Romero trips many times here. The film tries to be a thoughtful statement on identity and I really enjoyed that aspect of the film, but then ruins it by becoming a routine slasher movie. That’s like mixing tequila and tomato juice! It just doesn’t work! Color your faces red, boyz and girlz…here we go!
GORE
Not as gory as it should’ve been but still pretty violent. We get a head squashed by a train, a head bashing, a kool hanging, a bullet in the chest and a laser in the head (don’t ask).
ACTING
I like Jason Flemyng (Henry) and he does fine here. Sure, his Brit accent is always on the brink of popping out but his character and his delivery are both enjoyable. Leslie Hope (Rosemary) also hits the mark; she’s very natural and sympathetic. Peter Stormare (Miles) overacts as if his life depended on it. At first, I found his over-the-top character somewhat amusing, but he quickly fell into the “shut the fuck up already!” category.

Nina Garbiras (Janine) plays her bitch character so well that I was counting the seconds to her death. I cursed her the most. Good job! Andrew Tarbet (James) nails the “yuppie” two-faced bastard thang and I wanted to bash his head in too. I’m a fan of Tom Atkins (McCleary) but here he lacks conviction. His performance felt like a throwaway. Words cannot describe how much I loathed Maria Cruz (#9) and her high-pitched performance. What an annoying fucking voice! Remember when I said I cursed the Janine character the most? I LIED! I cursed this bitch the most! DIEEEEE!
T & A
The boyz get Nina Garbiras and Maria Cruz topless and the gals get Peter Stormare flashing his cock real fast (Romero says during the DVD commentary that the cock flash was a Stormare improvisation).
DIRECTING
Romero goes all out here. The shot compositions are very stylish, the lighting is eerie and effective. I also liked the way Romero used his settings (the un-finished house especially) and I dug the many close-ups that the film showcased. On a sour note, I was let down by Romero’s incapacity to generate tension. In a story like this, I should’ve felt some suspense.
SOUNDTRACK
I really clicked with Donald Rubinstein's jazzy saxophone score. It's very sad and it worked for the film. I also dug the “Moist” song that popped out at a certain point. As for the Misfits tunes? Well, for me the Misfits haven’t been all that since Glenn Danzig left the band. They still got the wacky costumes but they've lost their edge.
DVD FEATURES
A Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment Release

I was a bit let down by the DVD. Not much meat on this bruised beeyatch.

IMAGE: The film is shown in Widescreen and I’m not sure if Romero wanted the film to look washed out or if it’s the DVD that has a poor image. You be the judge.

SOUND: The Dolby Stereo sound is adequate, nothing more, nothing less.

MISFITS MUSIC VIDEO (~ 3 minutes): Here we get the Romero-directed Misfits music video for their song “Scream”. I will say that I appreciated the clip more than when I first saw at the Fango Weekends of Horror where it was previewed. The Misfit band members come back to life (as zombies of course) in a hospital and wreak havoc. It was nice to see Romero play “Night Of The Living Dead” again. The video has a few spooky shots and some nice gore. It’s aight.

COMMENTARY WITH GEORGE ROMERO AND PETER GRUNWALD: This commentary covers everything from how the film got off the ground, from where Romero got the inspiration for the white face, to his cast that he loved so much, to Stormare’s acting methods. The commentary has a lot of dead time but overall it's still informative and fairly interesting. It’s nice to hear Romero talk shop.

TRAILER: The DVD back cover says that the film’s trailer is on the disk. But for the life of me, I can’t freaking find it! I looked everywhere! Where in Savini’s name can it be?

The Romero commentary is the best thing about the DVD features. The basic menu is plain and the extras are almost non-existent. At least I finally got to see the film.
BOTTOM LINE
I enjoyed "Bruiser" in fragments. There are some scenes, ideas and moments that I really liked. But on the flip side, I hated many of the characters, was disappointed by 99 percent of the murders, was expecting some tension and kept hoping that the deeper levels of the story would fully take over (they didn’t, the slasher vibe did). I still recommend you see "Bruiser" though. It's more ambitious than the norm and it is Romero. Flawed Romero...but still Romero.
BULL'S EYE
This film was shot in Toronto, Canada.

The Misfits appear in the movie.
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