BRUISER (director/writer: George A. Romero; cinematographer: Adam Swica; editor: Miume Jan Eramo; music: Donald A. Rubinstein; cast: Jason Flemyng (Henry Creedlow), Peter Stormare (Milo Styles), Leslie Hope (Rosemary Newley), Nina Garbiras (Janine Creedlow), Tom Atkins (Detective McCleary), Jeff Monahan (Tom Burtran), Jonathan Higgins (Detective Rakowski), Andrew Tarbet (James Larson), Marie Cruz (Number 9), Beatriz Pizano (Katie); Runtime: 99; Le Studio Canal Plus; 2000-France/USA)
“The humor is vacuous and the story lacks subtlety.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Horror-meister George Romero’s (Night of the Living Dead/Martin) latest since The Dark Half in 1993, is a sophomoric revenge film whose message is that vengeance is sweet. It was sloppily made and should only satisfy those with low expectations. It’s a slasher film that tries desperately to be witty, but the jokes are tasteless and all too obvious. It’s about a nice guy who people take advantage of, who when given a mask by a co-worker at a party his alter ego comes out in the open and he seeks revenge of all those who took advantage of him.
The meek Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) works for a slick fashion magazine called Bruiser. It is run by an obnoxious, short-tempered, tyrannical, egomaniac sexist, asshole named Milo Styles (Peter Stormare), who enjoys degrading people, especially during board meetings, because he feels superior to those he has power over. At a company barbecue Henry watches as his cheating wife Janine (Nina Garbiras) is jerking off his boss. At this same party Milo’s wife Rosie (Leslie Hope), who is also a photographer at the magazine, makes a plain mask for the pushover Henry and tells him with this mask you can be whomever you want to be.
Henry listens to a late-night radio talk-show where a guy calls in and says how lousy life is and commits suicide over the air. This appeals to Henry as a way out of his predicament and he fantasizes killing himself. Home alone, as his wife went to Milo’s office where she plans to spend the weekend screwing him, Henry spots his Hispanic maid Katie stealing money from his wallet and silverware items in the house. He dons his mask and kills her, and then goes to Milo’s office. Milo is screwing Janine on the office conference table, when Rosie pops in and takes a photo of them. Milo chases her out to the street in his underwear, as the masked Henry comes out of hiding and hangs his wife by using an extension cord and then releases her body to be hanging outside the window. A fellow employee, Tom, is hiding in the closet and has witnessed the murder. But Henry doesn’t kill him, he just makes him promise not to squeal to the cops. A cynical Detective McCleary (Atkins) and his equally cynical younger partner, Detective Rakowski (Higgins), question Milo. They believe either Henry or Rosie have the motive to have done it, but McCleary is certain that it had to be Rosie. His partner is willing to bet him that Henry did it.
Henry is meanwhile propped up with new energy and feels glad to be perceived as The Invisible Man, as he goes undetected in pursuit of those who wronged him. His best pal Jim (Tarbet), who is also his financial adviser, has stolen huge sums of money from his investments, and the masked Henry kills him in the locker room of a health club.
Henry wishes to clear Rosie of being a suspect. So he calls the radio talk-show and confesses to the murder of his wife and tells the show there’s one more thing for him to do. At a decadent masquerade party Milo is throwing for the magazine, Henry gets his revenge on the creepy Milo and flees before he can be caught. The group called The Misfits plays its heavy metal music at this raucous celebration for an unusual murder.
This is a poorly acted, scripted, and directed film, with the leaden finale almost unbearable to watch. The humor is vacuous and the story lacks subtlety. The most satisfying moment is when the maid denies she took anything and exclaims as if she is an innocent wrongly accused, by asking “which objects”? Henry responds by hitting her over the head with the bag filled with the stolen items. If the other murders could have been done with such style, I might have warmed up a little more to it.
REVIEWED ON 3/5/2001 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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