Bruiser review by Matt Fuerst

Mans feeling on loss of identity has been a pretty constant literary topic. I guess since we have evolved from worrying about where our next meal is going to come from, we as a species have a lot more time on our hands to worry about our place in the world. It's been a pretty good few years for loss of identity films, highlighted by the great Fight Club and American Psycho. Bruiser follows in similar thematic footsteps of those films, but brings the layers of metaphors to new heights.

Henry (the enjoyable Jason Flemyng) has managed to live his life without ever being noticed. Sure, he lives with a beautiful woman, but she despises him. Yes, he lives in a huge house, but it's unfinished and he can't afford it. He has a nice job, but is disrespected and ignored. Henry wakes up on yet another nameless, faceless day and prepares for work. While going through his routine, someone commits suicide live on the radio. This intrigues Henry, but of course no one is interested in discussing this with Henry. Continuing his routine, Henry is ripped a new one by the person who claims to be his wife, is annoyed by his wife's dog who hates him and meets up with his best friend who rolls over him in conversation.

Henry arrives for work and is steamrolled by all of his coworkers, but especially so by the overpowering boss Milo Styles (Peter Stormare), owner of the magazine Bruiser that Henry works for, who picks on everyone but has an especially grand time with Henry. Work is the same for Henry on this day as every other, he offers his opinion, and you're not sure if anyone even hears him, let alone registers the content. We fast forward to Milo's outdoor party for his workers. We learn that Henry secretly loves Milo's wife, and he attempts to make it not so secret. Once again Henry is ignored and rejected, only to walk away from the situation and bump into his wife giving manual relief to Milo. Perfect. The theme of the party is masks, each attendee is given a mask and told to paint their mask to express themselves. Henry attempts the task, but realizes he has no personality, no expression, he is a true blank slate.

The next morning Henry awakens and begins his routine, but when looking in the mirror is shocked to see the blank mask permanently affixed to his face. Henry experiences shock, but is soon interrupted by his cleaning lady, whom thinking no one is home is freely fleecing Henry's home. With his first taste of freedom, Henry clobbers the cleaning lady, killing her. Henry understands that this cannot truly be happening, yet it is, and decides to fill his mask with a personality he has long wished to express. Thus begins Henry journey to fill in his mask.

I have to admit that I enjoyed director George Romero's work here. The film is classified as a horror flick, and I guess with Romero as director, it's going to be hard to shake the genre, but there isn't much that confines it to the horror realm. Instead, it is really more of an arty flick, something that you would expect David Lynch to direct, but more accessible, which I propose is a good thing. Romero did a great job making the film accessible, even for slope heads like me. When we followed Henry to a meeting at his workplace, I noticed he was the only person not seated, instead walking around the table in an almost floating fashion. I quickly assumed that Henry was almost like a ghost at his workplace, an invisible spirit who is present, but yet has no say in the course of events. It's great direction touches like this that drives home Romero's points on his characters and the storyline.

The movie does have a failing, and that is the entire climax. Up until the climax, the film takes place in a world very similar to where you and I live every day. Work, home, eating dinner, driving cars, buying groceries. But all of a sudden the climax (which isn't the finale, since there is a few minute epilogue of sorts after the films climax) takes place at some underground club, featuring a Glen Danzig-less Misfits playing center stage, futuristic pieces of technology and a police chase. It's a real step outside the boundaries of the rest of the film. I am pretty sure Romero wasn't exactly clear how to round out the situation he had created for Henry, so he went the bizarre route which doesn't work.

The Bruiser DVD is a mixed bag. The presentation of the film itself is fine enough. Picture quality is good and in widescreen. The sound certainly will not have you bragging or showing your system off to your friends. Included as extras are a Misfits music video which intermingles occasional bits of their appearance in the film and a commentary by director Romero. The theatrical trailer however is hidden as an easter egg, which definitely renders a pain similar to that of an exposed nerve. C'mon we pay good money for a DVD and they did this easter egg baloney? Why the hell do companies insist on doing this? Please make it stop.

Overall I found Bruiser to be a very satisfying experience. Romero mixes up metaphor well and presents a great movie and a good sign that Romero has a lot more to say.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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