★ / ★★★★
Women are kidnapped and forced to live in an underground prison. The only time they are ever allowed to leave their cells is when they are scheduled to fight another prisoner—to the death. The couple in charge of the tournament, Joseph (Doug Jones) and Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn), is armed with two threats. If a prisoner refused to participate, a loved one back home would die. The same would happen to the family of the participant if she died during a match. The winner of the tournament would be released and reintegrated into society. Most importantly, she, according to Joseph, would have been “transformed.”
Directed by Josh C. Waller, “Raze” is an exercise in pointlessness. The first question that comes to mind is: Who is this movie made for? Women fighting each other with their bare hands, getting dirty and bloody, screaming and howling in pain—it must be for men, right? Wrong. I believe this is a movie for people who crave to see extreme violence and nothing else. There is a plot but no story. There is only one fight scene after another—and they aren’t even well-choreographed.
There are a few flashbacks that last some milliseconds long. Credit goes to Robert Beaucage, Kenny Gage, and the director for such a lifeless, boring, astoundingly bad attempt in getting us to care about the characters. Their laziness should be taken as an affront because they actually expected us to buy into the schmaltz.
As expected from a movie with not much ambition, let alone imagination, the fights are edited in such a manic manner that one gets the impression the filmmakers are really showing nothing. Once the two fighters make the initial physical contact, the battle becomes a mishmash of convoluted hullabaloo. As if it weren’t headache-inducing enough, the intercutting with other fights makes the whole thing unbearable.
The battle area is too small—so small that it looks as though duels are taking place at the bottom of a well. And why are the fighters not given weapons? Clearly, it is much more interesting to see a character hold and wield a weapon—which is shown during the final fifteen minutes. It would have given the picture variation because someone who might not be good at punching or kicking might be a complete surprise when given a pernach or a glaive.
The second question that comes to mind is why the filmmakers bothered to make the movie when they neither have the ambition nor the skill to at least equal their inspirations. Kinji Fukasaku’s “Batoru rowaiaru” works not solely because of the violence. The characters’ age group in that film gives the material another layer. Francis Lawrence’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” works because the characters’ humanity comes first and the violence is secondary, if not tertiary.
“Raze” is a not a film for those wishing to be visually, intellectually, or emotionally stimulated. It exists solely because there is an audience out there expecting slightly more than staring at a blank screen. The other reason is because the filmmakers, for some reason, had gotten financial backing from someone, or a group, that neither knows how to nor cares about genuinely entertaining the audience. This is ninety minutes off our busy lives that we would never get back.