Director: Josh C. Waller.
Writers: Robert Beaucage, Kenny Gage and Josh C. Waller.
Cast: Zoë Bell, Rachel Nichols, Tracie Thoms and Bruce Thomas.
The female prison movies of the ’60s and ’70s focused on sexploitation. In these films, semi-naked shower scenes and brawls were plentiful. But, the filmmakers of Raze have chosen to alter this genre from the sexy to the more blood-filled. In Raze, several characters partake in an all women fighting tournament, which lasts until there is only one survivor. Director Josh C. Waller and the writing team of Robert Beaucage and Kenny Gage have created a thrilling action focused tale. Dramatic elements and characterizations are relegated to a few scenes of dialogue and flashbacks. Instead of focusing exclusively on the characters and story, Raze deals with one woman’s struggle out of this bloodsport and her battle with psychopathic tournament directors. Raze’s violent visual spectacle is one film that will unsettle most viewers.
The film begins with the minor character, Jamie (Rachel Nichols ). Jamie is out on a date, with a mysterious man. Later, she retires to her home for a night of relaxation, but her date is unwilling to end the date so early. Jamie is tazered and brought, against her will, into an underground fighting tournament. She now has to fight against the very capable Sabrina (Zoe Bell ), to the death. Dozens of other women will fall forever, in this fifty person tournament. And, few characters will be left standing as the credits roll.
Raze revitalizes the prison films of the past, in an unfamiliar fashion. Women prison films from the ’60s were more about sex appeal, than fighting. But, the writers from Raze have altered the formula. Instead of women in tight clothing, the female characters are out for blood. Sexpoitation is replaced by another type of exploitation, one of violence. This is a film about bloodsport as seen in over a dozen fighting sequences. Some of that violence is difficult to watch and very gory. For instance, one woman’s arm is broken by an awkward hold. The cracking sound is just as disconcerting as the visual onscreen. As well, women prison films from the early ’60s involved violence imposed by guards and wardens on prisoners. But here, the violence is mostly hosted amongst the contenders. Women from different backgrounds (foster homes, the military) beat each other, late into the picture. Much of the action is acted out amongst the prisoners, until one character aspires to escape. Still, Raze is heavily influenced by women prison films of the past as seen in the setting, a penitentiary, and the characters: several prisoners, guards and wardens.
One intriguing element in the film involves the purpose of the tournament. Why is this bloodsport being held? And, what would lead the organizers of the tournament to create so much murder? These were a couple of the questions that came up during a viewing of this film. It is obvious that the organizers, Joseph (Doug Jones) and Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn), are psychopaths. They talk of family lineage and the heritage of the tournament; yet, it is obvious they instigate the tournament to entertain their patrons and themselves, while dismissing the welfare of the competitors. Also, an elite group of spectators pay to see the women torn apart. This film does a great job of dividing the protagonist and company from the much less moral. Little sympathy is felt for the tournament organizers, once the central protagonist escapes.
Raze is a small film, which focuses primarily on action. There are elements of familial drama here. The character Sabrina is fighting for her daughter. If she loses a fight, then her daughter will be killed. The motivations of characters are inspired by dramatic plot elements. Though, most of the sequences in Raze are action oriented and very violent. Scenes of chokeholds, body shots and strangulations are the order of the day. The pace is also driven forward by Sabrina’s anguish and desire for revenge on her captors. Late in the picture, she kills a whole slew of characters after an inter-title announces: “Sabrina vs. Everyone.” Raze is primarily a very violent, action fueled outing.
This title was released earlier this year (Jan. 2014) through IFC Films and action film or horror film fans will want to take notice of this release. Raze is a blood filled spectacle, which focuses on an almost all-female cast. Though, the film is not a female empowerment outing. Instead, Raze revitalizes the female prison films of the late 20th Century. Full of gory sequences and rage-fueled violence, Raze is one film that will satisfy the action cravings in anyone.
Overall: 7.75 out of 10.