Friday, April 26, 2013

RAZE (2013) Tribeca 2013

Let me get one thing out of the way right at the start- Zoe Bell is incredible. With luck she's going to become a huge huge star. I loved what she did here...

...I just wish the film was better.

Shot as if it were a horror film, but containing no horror and almost no sense, RAZE is the story of a group of women who have been kidnapped to fight to the death for a cult. If they don't fight some loved one of the women will be killed. And if they lose the loved one will be killed.

That's the plot in a nutshell. Nothing beyond that is explained other than there were 50 women kidnapped at one point, and that the cult supposedly been around for thousands of years.

None of the film makes any sense whats so ever.

Who are the cult? No idea.
What do they want? No idea.
Did they pick all the girls up in the same bar? No idea but it would be stupid if they did
Where are these replacement girls coming from? No idea.
Why will the cult kill the family if they lose? No idea.
How did they choose the women? No idea.
What are the rules of  when and who fight? No idea
If there are 24 women left when the film starts  why do we only see 6 (plus replacements)? No idea?
How did we go from 50 to 24? No Idea
What are the backgrounds of any of the women? No real idea  except Zoe bell is a soldier, one woman knows jujitsu and another is a psycho
Is there supposed to be anything beyond the women fighting? No idea.
Whats the wacky layout of the complex? No idea
What do they do with the dead women? No idea
What does the title mean? No idea.

There are more questions, lots of questions, but that should get you started.

There are other problems.

Because the fights are in a confined area they are largely from the waist up unless the women end up on the ground. This would be fine, except that they are largely repetitive (one pushes another against the wall and lots of punches are thrown). This is understandable to a point but it gets boring, especially when late in the game there is a replacement who is a jujitsu expert and things pick up (speaking of that fight what about what happens at the end of it that sets up the conclusion- where did that come from?They are both in on it?)

And because we don't get any background on anyone or anything the film can, and possibly be should, be seen as misogynistic death porn. The film exists for the fights and nothing else. They are simply objects we watch abusing each other. These are objects we watch die to get our rocks off.  Because the film is filled with unanswered questions there is no way to put any of the deaths into any sort of context. There are no good deaths, it's simply all the women getting screwed over and ending up dead.

I probably shouldn't read anything into it, but a good number of walk outs (and there were walk outs) at the press screening were by women. Were they offended? I don't know and I wouldn't have said anything except most of the walk outs seemed to be by women. (I say I shouldn't read anything into it because with the 6 films at one time press screening at Tribeca they could have been going to another movie...or not)

I'm kind of curious if the film is supposed to be a comedy. Its not funny mind you, Neither I nor the audience ever laughed, but owing to the way that the heads of the cult are portrayed I'm wondering if this is supposed to be some sort of satire or sly comedy... no probably not, I mean the jokes are just not funny...

I hate this film.

Maybe, and I do say maybe this would have played better had I never seen any of the numerous similar films like KILL THEM ALL or COWEB or...anything  that is essentially a gladiatorial combat film updated. Even allowing that many of those films have problems of their own (KILL THEM ALL is cheap) RAZE seems rather anemic especially since the fighting is the same thing. To be honest, my one over riding thought was what would this have been like had Roger Corman produced it in the 1970's with Pam Grier.

I'm sure I'm going to take heat for this (Matthew at Paracinema has inferred as much) but outside of  Zoe Bell RAZE is a lousy movie if you think about it.


  1. You're right to suggest that the film is misogynistic, but that's such a tricky thing to approach. I thought about mentioning this in my review but ultimately decided against it because A) I am not a woman and B) I am not at all qualified to provide a feminist critique of film. So what follows are just my own $0.02 on the topic, representing nothing and no one at all.

    I think the film has aspects of being a faux-exploitation film. If you wrote an entire review about the film from the perspective that it was grindhouse trash, I could understand where you were coming from and wouldn't put up too much of a fight. And yet... and yet the film doesn't particularly seem to enjoy the death of any of the characters. There is no gleeful aspect of voyeurism that I would expect from an exploitation film like this. If the movie was truthfully a mysognynistic film, I think there would be a thinner line between the audience and the observers, but they are painted in such grotesque color that we cannot help but respond negatively towards them. Furthermore, outside a few moments, I thought the film was surprisingly tactful in how it handled the violence. There is very little gore and no nudity whatsoever, and even the order of the fights is determined to have the greatest physical effect on the audience, not the greatest emotional effect. In a lot of ways it's just a cheesy contemporary gladiator film that probably thought it was being more progressive than mysogynistic in allowing all the fighters to be women.

    Does that mean it won't or shouldn't receive criticism? Certainly not. But I paid very close attention to the way the film depicted violence; the first sign of nihilism or body horror and I was out. It toed the line in places but never crossed it for me.

    Also, while I appreciate the shout-out, I never felt like you were going to take heat for the negativity of your review; I am worried that by liking RAZE I may be seen to be condoning cinematic violence towards women. I hope not!

    1. I know you weren't condoning violence. I only mentioned your comment because the film has generated a great deal of passionate feelings both pro and con.

      I wouldn't have mentioned the misogynistic feel except many of the women in the audience walked out on the film.(As you say I'm not a woman)

      Ultimately though my trouble with the film is not the tone but the leaps of logic. Exploitation fodder or no it just makes no sense.