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Bruiser (George Romero, 2000)


    I remember being annoyed by the endless speculation over whether or not Bruiser, George Romero’s first film since 1993’s surprisingly solid adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Half, would get a domestic theatrical release. It never did secure one, and instead premiered on home video late last year. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a case to be made that Romero was grievously wronged by the system. Bruiser is the weakest film in the director’s oeuvre, and, despite a promising start, it fits right in with the other cheap thrillers that have debuted on DVD.


    Romero’s movies have never been less than topical, and Bruiser, at least for its first reel, is no exception. Things begin promisingly as we’re introduced to Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng), a seemingly successful young man who works at a fashion magazine called “Bruiser”. Romero uses his thankless existence to paint a picture of the misery caused when one tries to run the rat race. With a cheating, materialistic wife, a boss who endlessly demeans him, and a best friend who is swindling him out of his hard earned money, Henry is fit to be tied. The problem is that he chooses to internalize his anger, and as a result he slowly begins to unravel. Romero stages his brief, gory revenge fantasies spurned by the smallest inconsideration. When Henry imagines himself violently assaulting a woman who shuffles past him to board a train, the film interestingly taps into a common psychosis, caused by the petty frustrations we face day in and day out.


    Alas, as Henry’s problems escalate, and his identity is further compromised by his inaction, Bruiser becomes a rather subpar slasher film. Henry, convinced that his face has been replaced with a blank mask, loses his grip on reality, and begins extracting bloody revenge on all those who have wronged him in an attempt to redefine himself. At this point, Bruiser loses what imagination it has had and simultaneously stops resembling the lives of the audience. There’s little satisfaction in watching his battering of his wife or boss, simply because the film lacks both villainous panache to make us root for Henry and sympathetic victims that would allow us to be appalled by his actions. The dreary hour in which Henry terrorizes those around him is dispiriting whenever you consider that its director filmed The Night of the Living Dead, which might well be the scariest horror film of all time. In the five years since Bruiser’s completion, Romero’s launched production on Land of the Dead, which will see him revisiting that famed franchise. Here’s to hoping Bruiser was a mere misstep before Romero’s return to form.




Jeremy Heilman