Bruiser (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
pretty much agreed that it's a movie that we tried to like because of
its excellent premise, but could never really warm to because of
characterization problems and a predictable slasher-style denouement
Scoop's comments in white, written in 2000:
I don't know about you guys, but I didn't even know that George A. Romero was still making films. He sure doesn't make many. Prior to Bruiser, he hadn't made one in seven years, and from 1989 to 1999, he directed exactly one feature, 1993's The Dark Half.
|Despite the lukewarm reception for that particular film, the Carnegie-Mellon graduate is probably considered one of the most successful completely independent directors of all time, and is revered by young filmmakers for his work outside the system. Even after several successful films which made him marketable in Hollywood, he continued to make the movies that he wanted to make, mostly in and around the Pittsburgh area. His "Night of the Living Dead" and "Knightriders" are often listed when people pick the Top 10 Independent American films.||
| Bruiser is an OK
film, but not a good one, and it went straight to video despite
Romero's name and a $5 million budget. It has a strong first half, but
a tired resolution. Looking back on it as a complete entity, it pretty
much seems like a long episode of The Twilight Zone, since it combines
straight horror with psychological horror and wraps it in an
allegorical, moralistic package with social commentary.
Henry Creedlow has always been a faceless non-entity. He's not just a nobody like most of us, but he's also a complete wimp. He's the ultimate "mark". His abusive boss makes fun of him to his face, in front of his co-workers. His wife is having an affair with that very same slimebag boss. His best childhood friend is his investment consultant who and is ripping him off for tens of thousands of dollars. Henry fantasizes about striking back at people who mistreat him, but he never does.
As if all that weren't bad enough, he wakes up one day without a face. He goes from being a figuratively faceless non-entity to a literally faceless one. Where his face used to be, there is a nearly featureless porcelain mask which can't be removed. As his initial terror diminishes, he realizes that he has allowed all the people in his life to steal his manhood, and even his very identity. The only way to get his face back, he reasons, is to make himself a whole person again.
So far, excellent!
|Unfortunately, the brilliant part of
the script broke down right there. It was turning into a really arty
little psychological horror film until he determined how he would
regain his identity. Sigh! He decided to become a mass murderer, and
to get permanent revenge on the people who hurt him. So the nifty
little horror film became a regular old formula slasher film in the
second half, with Henry killing and a couple of detectives detecting.
At this point it turned into Jim Carrey's mask movie, minus the humor.
There wasn't even a lot of detecting to do, since Henry called into radio talk shows and confessed the details of his crimes.
Pity Romero couldn't figure out a more creative way for the faceless man to get his face back.
comments in yellow, written in 2005:
Bruiser is a George
Romero film funded by French Canal + and made in Ontario on a very small
budget. It is meant as a commentary on the dehumanizing effects of
industry on the common man. Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) has a real
bad day. He lives in an unfinished house, and his breakfast is disrupted
by an obnoxious poodle, and a wife who won't get up. She clearly has
little or no use for him. His best friend and financial planner picks
him up on the way to the train station, and shows him his portfolio,
which is not doing as well as he expected. His boss at Bruiser Magazine,
Milo (Peter Stormare), makes an ass out of him at a morning meeting. He
is turned down for a Gold Card because he is undercapitalized.
Unfortunately, I was not entirely impressed with the execution. Flemyng's performance was clearly hampered by the mask and Stormare was typically way over the top. More important than those facts is the script's inherent empathy problem. Since the masked man would eventually be doing really awful things to those who had wronged him, it was necessary to make everyone else in the film so obviously evil that we could still empathize with Henry. The net result is a film full of people you hate, except for one with a featureless plastic face.
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