Review: Raze

Raze

Is it acceptable to show women absolutely brutalize one another in the vein of Fight Club, but to the death? Do the ends justify the means? These two questions are asked and ceremoniously answered in the new exploitation film, Raze. Starring Australian actress/stuntwoman Zoë Bell as the titular character Sabrina who is force to fight other women to insure the safety of her child.

With a simple premise, Raze, packs a considerable punch and never really allows the viewer to take much of a break. Sabrina and 49 other seemingly random women are kidnapped by a husband and wife team, Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn) and Joseph (Doug Jones). The film starts out as innocent as something like this could. We see Sabrina and another kidnapped woman trying to make out what is happening to them. The level of confusion and paranoia in the opening sequence feels accurate to what this situation would be like in reality. The fights are as brutal as anything I’ve ever seen. This isn’t slap fighting, or overly choreographed martial arts fighting. Each woman is chosen for her unique abilities, possibly motivations, and certain something. This last quality is monitored and sought out by Elizabeth and Joseph before these women are even taken.

After several brutal rounds of death matches we see 6 women taken in front of the sadistic married couple. There, they are treated to the details of this so called tournament. Notions of the inherent need for women to be vicious to survive is touched on and manipulated by Elizabeth specifically. The couple assures each combatant that their families and love ones are constantly under the watch of a snipers who will gladly act if they refuse to fight or lose.

The discussions of brutality is as calmly handled as a conversation about life’s most mundane tasks. Elizabeth and Joseph paint a disturbing, yet rewarding atmosphere. They promise that the winner of this tournament will be set free and her family safe. The incentive of escape caused me as the viewer to actually root for some deaths over others; an interesting side effect of providing stakes. As I stated earlier, the film pushes the question of ends justifying the means. Sabrina and the other women go from scared individuals, to comforting each other as a cell block team, and finally to harden death dealing combatants whose only goal is to win. That transition is what really helped resonate with me. Due to the brutality of the film, you aren’t necessarily cheering for the next fight, but I did enjoy them immensely. They were well acted and Zoë Bell and the other women through down like no other female fights I’ve even see on film. There isn’t a bunch a stereotypical screaming and hair pulling. Instead we are given hard gut punches, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, serious standing strikes, and even more brutal MMA-style ground and pounds.

From its red light shooting during fight sequences to its light moments with Elizabeth and Joseph’s matter fact ways, Raze, sets a great bar for an all female action flick. Never leaning on troupes as a crutch, but rather casting them aside to stand on its own. With their humanity stripped from them, these women are given the chance to remove the societal shackles of being “lady like” and such nonsense. Instead, Raze asks “is this ok?” and quickly answers with a right cross to the face. For that fact that the movie pulls no punches should get you to check it out.

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