Friday, May 30, 2014

Raze DVD Review

Reviewed by Scott Meyers
At the unforgiving intersection of Chained Heat, TV's "Spartacus" and "Orange Is the New Black" stands Raze, a viscerally thrilling new action-horror film where it's every woman for herself. After she is drugged and abducted, Jamie (Rachel Nichols, Star Trek, "Continuum") awakens to find herself in a concrete bunker where she meets fellow abductee Sabrina (stuntwoman-turned-action star Zoe Bell, Death Proof, Kill Bill, Oblivion). Before long the two women discover that they are in a modern-day coliseum, where they and 48 other women have been selected to fight to the death. If they refuse, their loved ones will be killed. Co-starring genre favorites Doug Jones (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) and Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks") as the sadistic organizers of the battles, Raze is director Josh C. Waller's ("McCanick") a no-holds-barred assault on the senses, featuring some of the most brutal fist-to-the-face combat ever put on film. In this contest, may the best woman win.

Film (2 out of 5 stars)
In this IFC Midnight production that is a dark version of Gladiator we find 50 women are trapped underground and are forced to fight to the death to not only save themselves but save a loved one. When she wakes up trapped underground with no memory of how she got there, Jamie (played by Rachel Nichols) soon meets others in the same situation. Jamie soon runs into Sabrina (played by Zoe Bell) and learns why she is trapped, to fight to the death for the cameras.

After the first round the girls that are still alive find out that they are not only fighting for their freedom, but for the life of someone they love. The women soon meet the man in charge, Joseph (played by Doug Jones) who explains to them the history of this competition, his father use to run it, and before that his grandfather was the leader. He then explains that the winner of the entire competition will be freed along with their loved one that has also been taken hostage. After the meeting with Joseph, the women look to Sabrina to figure out how they can escape. Sabrina was a former POW, and the women are able to watch the battles from their cells and feel that Sabrina is the best person to lead them to freedom. The only question is how is this small group of unarmed women supposed to overpower the guards who are armed.

During one of Sabrina's matches we learn that not only are the women fighting for Joseph to free them, but we see a group of people that are watching the fights on television and we can only assume that they are betting on the fighters and the fight's outcome. Even though the women are battling one another they still have some humanity within them. They are all worried about one another's loved ones that are being held hostage and are emotional upset for the loser's family; some fighters even intentional lose their match (and their life) to allow a better chance of winning for the competitor. With twists and turns before, during, and after each fight, there is no telling how this battle royal is going to end; the only guarantee is that it is going to end bloody.

The overall plot of the film was interesting, however the way in which the movie was put together fell a little short to me. There was not much back story and the way in which some of the characters were introduced made parts of the story confusing. The one thing that this movie did a great job with was the action fight sequences. The fights were very realistic and the sound effects of the fighters would make the viewer cringe. Overall a decent film, just be warned that if you watch it contains a lot of gore and contains massive amounts of blood.
Video (2 out of 5 stars)
Shot in 2.40:1 widescreen aspect the video was lacking. Some of the film was on the darker subdued side, I understand that the setting was supposed to be underground in an arena, but I think they went too far. The action sequence video moved too fast at times making it difficult to figure out what was going on. The special effects with the fight sequences went above and beyond, the blood from being in a fight and being expelled during the fights looked very realistic and the aftermath on the fighters (the cuts, bruises, and even the dead) looked like it could have been real.
Audio (2 out of 5 stars)
Filmed using 5.1 Dolby Digital the overall quality of the sound was decent. The dialogue at times became muffled and difficult to understand and then would get too loud. The background music flowed nice with the action sequence; it would help build the suspense with the plot and during the fight sequence it had music that matched what was happening. However the one thing that this filmed did an excellent job at were the sound effects that went along with the action fight sequences, from the punching and kicking during the fights as well as the breaking of bones and gunshots. Everything was very realistic sounding and brought at shiver inside while watching and listening.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
Here are the extras included on this DVD:

  • Cast and Crew Interviews -
    • Zoe Ball (actress): discusses her character, Sabrina, and why she acts the way she does.
    • Rebecca Marshall (actress): explains how hard it was to play her character and that her character was not her first choice. She also talks about what she had to go through physically to get ready for this part.
    • Allene Quincy (producer): said how much she loved the storyline that was all about a strong female role.
    • Josh Waller (director): he discusses how he chooses a film to work on and why he really wanted to work on this film.
    • Robert Beaucage (writer): his motivation for writing this film was he wanted to create a story where each character was to surprise the audience is some way
    • James Young (stunt coordinator): discussed the difficulties with the fight sequences trying to make everything different while working with so little
    • Mario Torres (special effects): showed audience how he made blood splatter look realistic for the fight sequences
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette - This is a 12 minute look at the film and how it was transformed from a short film into a full length film. The production staff discusses the steps they took in getting the funding for the rest of the film. It also uses many of the cast and crew interviews cut and pasted into it.
  • Deleted Scenes - There's 35 minutes of deleted scenes with dubbed over commentary by Zoe Bell, Josh Waller, Andrew Pagana, and Kenny Gage. The fourteen deleted scenes were put together sequentially and were separated by chapters to allow you to skip from one to the next. Some of the commentary was interesting explaining why some scenes were changed or omitted, but the overall feel of the commentary was almost a Mystery Science Theater 3000 feel to it. The commentary was more distracting than helpful.

Summary (2 out of 5 stars)
The overall experience of the film was okay; the film was between a full high production film and an indie film. The quality of the audio and video were average; it could have used a little more editing to bring it up the quality. The action sequences, which are what the film is truly about, were very well done, they were very realistic. The extras were subpar, the interviews were almost too short (barely a minute long each) and the deleted scenes were put together in 1 long film with chapters (would have been better if each scene was separate and clickable).

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