RAZE Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
DVD released by Koch Media
Directed by Josh C Wallar
Written by Robert Beaucage, Josh C Waller and Kenny Gage
2014, 18, 87 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 16th June 2014
Zoe Bell as Sabrina
Rachel Nichols as Jamie
Tracie Thoms as Teresa
Bailey Ann Borders as Cody
Bruce Thomas as Kurtz
Allene Quincy as Brenda
Doug Jones as Joseph
Sherilyn Fenn as Elizabeth
Uma Thurman's kung fu kicking and skilful sword wielding leads the field for fictional female fighting, but Raze attempts to set the standard with fifty kick-ass women, one ring and room for only one survivor.
A group of women are kidnapped and forced to fight each other to the death in one-on-one matches in order to save their loved ones. Held captive in a prison by abductees and 'show' runners, Joseph (Doug Jones) and his wife Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn), the women provide twisted entertainment for a wealthy clientele.
If you hadn't already guessed, Raze is primarily a fight film. Zoe Bell, an American stuntwoman (and actress) who doubled as Thurman in Kill Bill, leads a fine cast that excels in executing each fight scene. These aren't catfights with hair-pulling and face scratching, mind. Instead, the numerous versus matches are physical and brutal contests - between actresses that can actually fight. Don't imagine fifty well-dressed Thurmans bouncing off walls sporting a samurai sword and wicked smile, though.
Gritty, raw and merciless, the numerous (bare-handed and weapon-free) combat scenes are credible for the most part, well-choreographed, and promise to cause a few flinches with their bloody, animalistic savagery; heads are crushed against walls, faces are caved in with punch pay-outs. Suffocation seems a popular way out too.
To director Josh C. Waller's credit, Raze doesn't cop out on the severity of violence because it’s between women. Or because it's low-budget.
It’s hard to remain hooked past the first few fights when they’re so similar, though (it sorely misses a stylised, Tarantino-like look) and quickly becomes an unengaging endurance test. And unless you're sold merely on the girl-on-girl fighting action, unfortunately that’s your lot.
The story, though interestingly toying with gender norms and female exploitation, is ultimately a conventional, well-worn one. Outside of the fighting dungeon, there's little substance. No effort is made to distinguish the women from one another, and character development and backstory is fickle.
An embarrassingly obvious rivalry between the two leads, Zoe Bell playing Sabrina (the nice girl) and Rebecca Marshall playing Phoebe (the mean girl), is sparked early on - leading to an inevitably crude final showdown - but it's hard to root for either when you don't care who meets their sticky end first.
Largely hammy acting, camp dialogue and uninspiring score don’t do it any favours either. The diabolical organisation - the driving force behind the women's predicament and one that’s been in the family for generations - are merely an ill-constructed sideline act, and Jones and Fenn are given very little to work with.
The gender-twist is an interesting approach to a familiar plot, but a poor script and narrow focus means Raze only scrapes the surface of its potential. If you’re the one whose ears prick at the words ‘girl fight’, this could be your cup of tea. Otherwise, I’d look elsewhere for your Friday night film fix.