"Raze" Review: Craig's First Take

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When Sabrina (Zoe Bell) is mysteriously abducted, she finds herself in an underground lair, forced to do battle with other innocents for the amusement of unseen spectators. Each of these reluctant warriors has something to lose, but only one will remain when the game is done.
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Women beat the crap out of each other in Josh C. Waller’s “Raze”, a movie that seems destined to find its audience during a late night on Cinemax than at the movie theater. It’s the first starring role for Zoe Bell, whose claim to fame was stunt double for Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill” before shooting to some kind of B-movie success after Tarantino’s Grindhouse flick “Death Proof.” She’s got toughness, you gotta give her that, but “Raze” really only hits one half of the bloody suspenseful genre. Guess which half.

It begins not with Bell’s Sabrina but with Jamie (Rachel Nichols), who mentions on a blind date that she always wanted to be a kickboxer. Well, what do you know- before she knows it she’s waking up in a stone-enclosed dirt arena where Sabrina, a former prisoner of war, is waiting to make short work of her. Sabrina, along with several other young women, are forced to fight by bald-headed creepo Joseph (Doug Jones, Abe Sapien from “Hellboy) or let family members die in order to find the alpha-female of the group. I believe this is also how Charlie Sheen picks his mates.

The women are all types. There’s the one who’s gone completely crazy (Allene Quincy), the sweet but overly abused one (Bailey Anne Borders), the reasonable one (Tracie Thoms, a co-star of Death Proof as well), and Phoebe (Rebecca Marshall), the only one who seems to love all this sadism and so naturally is the biggest villain.

Sabrina is fighting for her young daughter, who we realize she gave up long ago because she couldn’t be a mother. There are also scenes after bloody, brutal fights where she cries (see, she’s sorry!) meant to make her sympathetic but any real drama in the film comes off as thin and negligible. Waller wants to keep this a tight little movie where when one bout ends, another is soon to begin and if you like characters being beaten to a bloody pulp, getting strangled to death, having their eyes gouged out, or having there face dragged down against a wall, this is a movie for you.

But where it’s all gory and disgusting, the bouts never really take on much interest, half because most feature characters we don’t care about and also because it’s more about the blood than it is about the suspense. The inevitable fight between Sabrina and Phoebe for example comes off as really anti-climactic because it is so one-sided, short, and seems more interested in getting to the gore than in getting the adrenaline pumping. Maybe there is an audience for this kind of thing, but considering that MMA, especially for women, has grown in popularity, the lack of a real decent fight here is a missed opportunity.