Thursday, January 26, 2017

Movies That Suck: Bruiser (2000)

I can't tell you how much it pains me whenever I have to rag on any director who I have tremendous respect for, one of whom is Mr. George Romero. I love this guy not only for his movies but also for his unflinching independent spirit and his determination to continue making films outside of the Hollywood system, a mindset that led to the creation of classics like his original Living Dead trilogy and Creepshow. Those movies feel less like theatrical movies and more like movies Romero made for himself and with his friends, making them akin to all of these no-budget, shot on video films that you see everywhere now, with the major differences, aside from them actually being good most of the time, being that they managed to accrue more money in their budgets than those films could ever hope to, had backing from the kind of independent financers that don't really exist anymore, and were fortunate enough to be seen in theaters. However, as much as I love how he's always in there pitching as hard as he can, I'd be lying if I said that Romero's filmography is spotless. While I haven't seen many of his very early films (i.e., pre-Dawn of the Dead), I have seen The Crazies, which I didn't like at all, and I also don't think he's made a truly good movie since his heyday in the late 70's and 80's, with his last one being Monkey Shines (I like The Dark Half okay but it's far from a great movie to me). I haven't loved any of the films he made in the 2000's: Land of the Dead was okay but a far cry from the greatness of his original trilogy, and I couldn't stand Diary of the Dead, which I found to be horribly pretentious, misguided, and with awful acting. I still haven't seen Survival of the Dead but, given everything I've heard about it, it sounds like Romero's ability slipped even further down with it. That brings us to our topic here: Bruiser. I think I first heard it mentioned by Christine Forrest, Romero's now ex-wife, on the audio commentary she did with him and Michael Felsher for the original theatrical version of Dawn of the Dead, as she used it as an example of how Romero could do much more than just blood and guts. I didn't know what to think of the title, as it didn't tell me anything of the movie's plot or ideas, and I didn't see anything of it until I saw the DVD bundled with another movie (it might have been the remake of Dawn of the Dead) at Walmart. Like the title, I didn't know what to make of the cover, which showed little more than a blank, white face with two tiny, black holes for eyes, reminiscent of Michael Myers' mask, and a tagline that read, "Meet the new face of terror." The word-of-mouth I'd heard about it, that it was a very boring and unremarkable movie, didn't help matters but, always needing to form my own opinion about something, I eventually bought the DVD for very cheap at a big used book and movie store in Chattanooga in early 2012. After seeing it, I had to agree that there was very little about it that I could say I liked and, after multiple viewings, it hasn't got any better. It's little more than an unpleasant, downbeat, and incredibly vulgar movie that comes across as very blatant and pretentious in the dark, social satire it tries to have.

Henry Creedlow's shitty life consists of a wife who barely pays any attention to him and is having the house renovated, a little poodle that annoys him to no end, a very successful friend who invests some money for him, only for the return to come back insultingly low, a disgusting, insulting boss who makes everyone who works for him at his magazine, Bruiser, feel like trash, especially Henry, and fantasies of committing suicide and violently killing all of those who walk all over him like he's nothing. During a company pool party as his boss, Miles Styles', house, Miles' wife, Rosie, makes a blank mask out of a plaster mold of Henry's face and tells him to give it an identity by painting a unique design on it, but Henry can't think of anything. Later on, he sees his wife, Janine, playing with Miles'... "yardstick" at the bar, and when he confronts her about it on their way home that night, she not only doesn't deny it but uses the fact that he didn't do anything as an example of how weak-willed and pathetic she thinks he is. She goes on to say that she wants to go places, whereas Henry is going nowhere. Left at home by himself that night, Henry drinks heavily and, the next morning, goes through his same old routine... until he looks in the mirror and sees that his face has been replaced by the white, feature-less mask Rosie made for him. When his and Janine's once-a-week maid shows up and begins stealing valuable items from the house and money from his wallet, he confronts her and fatally hits her with her own goods-filled bag. As he hides the body, Janine arrives home and Henry overhears her talking to somebody whom she plans to leave him for on the phone. Following her to the Bruiser office, Henry now knows that the other man is indeed Miles, but before he can kill them both, Rosie catches them having sex in the conference room and photographs them. While Miles chases after Rosie, Henry confronts and murders his unfaithful wife and manages to elude the police, who are questioning Miles. Heading back to his house, hiding from the police again, and finding evidence that his friend, Jimbo, has been stealing money from him, Henry decides he's had enough and embarks on a journey of murderous revenge against all those who have ruined his life.

Bruiser is a notable film in the context of George Romero's career for two reasons. First off, it's the first film he made in Canada, where he now lives, having become an official Canadian citizen in 2009, a fact that is painfully obvious in regards to the movie's look. More significantly, it was the first film he made after a long absence from feature film directing (eight years, to be exact; although it was released in 1993, The Dark Half was filmed in 1990 into 1991), having only directed a Japanese commercial promoting Resident Evil 2 in 1998. Because of that, I've heard some theories that the film's nasty, vitriolic nature was a projection of some anger that Romero himself possibly felt about the state of his career and personal life at that time, specifically all of his struggles to stay independent and keep his own identity from being swallowed up by the studios he eventually had to deal with. Those dealings with the studios, specifically Orion Pictures, who mishandled the productions and releases of Monkey Shines and The Dark Half, did not go well with Romero and are undoubtedly why he dropped off the filmmaking map for a while afterward, as they left him hating the studio system. If that is the reason why Bruiser is the way it is (it's all conjecture, mind you, as Romero himself has described filming it as both enjoyable and liberating), then I can totally understand and, as writer Scooter McCrae notes in his article on the film in the Fangoria Legends issue dedicated to Romero, it's a good thing Romero has a creative way to vent any anger he may have, but it also makes the movie all the more unpleasant to sit through.

(I apologize for the images in this review, which are sometimes either not exactly appropriate for what I'm talking about or aren't there at all. This movie is so obscure, I'm lucky I could get what I did.)

One thing I will give Bruiser is that the motives for the lead character's actions are made absolutely clear and understandable. After being trotted on by everyone around him both in his personal and professional life, Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) decides that enough is enough and begins making his homicidal fantasies a reality, brutally murdering everyone who's made his life miserable and made him feel like nothing. In the process, he's reclaiming his identity, as the white, feature-less mask that has become his face gets its own, personal design, first being splattered with blood on its upper, left side and then painted flesh-colored, with lurid colors placed on top of that, by Henry himself. Again, it's perfectly understandable why he snaps the way he does. We've all had fantasies of wanting to explode and beat the living crap out of someone who's made us angry or screwed us over in some way, often to the point of death, and while some may see Henry's fantasies as evidence of a deranged mind, I see it more as somebody who's just wishing he had the gumption to stand up for himself. I think it's also believable and understandable that he would be pushed to the breaking point by everything that's happened to him, as that's definitely happened before. I'm not condoning murder, mind you (although, all of the people he does kill are so loathsome that they had it coming), but it is understandable, which is akin to what Rosie tells him late in the movie. His switchover to his homicidal nature does come about rather suddenly, with his first murder being an unexpected and impulsive one, but I guess you could chalk it up to his maid's stealing things from his house and insulting him under her breath in Spanish being the straw that breaks the camel's back (he even says, "She just made me so angry), and that once he's done it and then overhears Janine's plans to leave him, he decides it's time for some payback. Plus, what's nice is that he doesn't become a complete lunatic, as he spares the life of Tom, a co-worker who could've ratted him out after he came across him but didn't, and makes sure that the media and everyone else knows that Rosie had nothing to do with Janine's death.

Henry's "mask" is definitely the film's most memorable image and the heart of its main theme. For starters, it is a striking and unsettling image, becoming even more so when he paints it in various ways later on, but more importantly, it represents how he's been stripped of identity by everyone around him and, as the film goes on and he takes back his life, he's painting the design on it that he couldn't think of before. How exactly it went from being just a mask that Rosie made from a mold of his face to actually being his face is something that I pondered and I toyed with the thought that maybe it was simply there in his head, that the revelation of Janine's affair and her pure contempt for him the night before caused one of his fantasies to take permanent hold in his mind. It seemed to fit as, while people acknowledge that he looks different, they don't bring up the mask specifically, meaning that they might be commenting on an anger and rage in him that they hadn't seen in him before. But then comes the scene where Rosie finally sees him for the first time since his face changed and remarks, "That's not a mold I made," to which he says, "It's all me." In other words, he really did lose his face and has now gotten it back along with his identity, a notion I really don't like because it makes the core theme, which is already shoved in your face repeatedly, way too literal for me. But you know what's really frustrating? At the end of the movie, after everything he's done to reclaim his identity, Henry is seen working in an office for another loathsome employer and the last shot is him turning to face his boss, the blank mask now back, suggesting that he's got to do it all over again (in the scene index, the scene is even titled, "The Cycle Continues) and that his taking a stand was all for nothing. He seems to have more guts now with how he talks to the boss, granted, but it still feels like nothing was accomplished. Maybe that's the point, that you always have to fight to keep your identity, but, regardless, I don't care for it because it begs the question, "Is this going to happen every time somebody acts like a dick to him?" If so, there are going to be a lot of dead bodies lying around!

One of the things that makes this film so unpleasant to watch is how utterly unlikable and contemptible just about every character other than Henry is, and no one is more repulsive than his boss, Miles Styles (Peter Stormare). Right from his introduction, you know that this guy is a sleazy, vulgar, and despicable excuse for a human being, one who treats his employees and everyone around him, including his own wife, like crap, humiliating them out in the open for all to see. He flat-out insults Henry and his choice for the cover of Bruiser's next issue, telling him that his taste is in his ass and rubbing the photo he picked on his butt, calling the woman a "fucking skunk," makes similarly nasty comments about the other losers, and even when a winner is picked, Miles has to insult her, revealing himself to also be a racist as he makes comments about her being a mixture of Hispanic and Korean, saying, "Can you imagine this face, on a 'Be Like Me' cover, among all the white bread in the fucking supermarket?" At the pool party he and his wife host for everyone at the company, he continues to act like a despicable sleazeball, pushing one guy into the pool, and calling one guy, Tom, a "fucker" behind his back right after he gave him some advice about how to get with the model who was picked. When Janine asks why he has to fuck with people all the time, he says, "Because there's nothing else you can do with them. Look at them. Fuckin' pathetic crowd. I don't even know half of them. All I need to know is that they're busy, and what's keeping them busy is me." This attitude of his is reinforced before his death at the end, when Henry says, "We all mean nothing to you," and he says, "That's right. You mean nothing to me. You know why? Because you are fucking nothing. An ant, a fucking ant, with no mind and small balls. That's what you all are, and I'm a fucking anteater!" Not only does he cheat on Rosie with Janine, he has no shame in doing it in front of everyone at the party, and when Rosie catches them doing it at the Bruiser offices and takes a picture of them, he chases after her and can only say that she walked in on a private moment. The only decent thing that he does in the entire film is to defend Rosie when she becomes a suspect in Janine's murder, saying that she would never do that to anybody, but even then, he acts like an ass about, not letting Rosie talk when Detective McCleary is trying to get a statement from her and screaming at her when she tells him to shut up. Plus, in the end, he's probably only defending her in order to save face for himself, which he brings after she takes the picture. He's nothing less than a disgusting, foul-mouthed asshole who deserves the painful death that he gets at the end (right at the balls, no less).

Just as contemptible as Miles is Henry's bitch of a wife, Janine (Nina Garbiras). Like Miles, you know from the start that she's not a good person, with the way she talks to Henry at the beginning when he unintentionally wakes her up and completely ignores his pleas to call her annoying little fart of a poodle away from him, instead just lying in bed, doing nothing but smoking a cigarette. This perceived contempt that she has for Henry continues at the pool party with some of the comments she makes when Rosie is making his mask and it's all but confirmed when she strokes Miles at the bar. And when Henry confronts her with it on their drive home, Janine not only doesn't deny it but uses it as an example of what a pushover loser she thinks he is, that people walk all over him every day and he does nothing about it, bringing up how he didn't have the guts to slug Miles when he caught them. She says that she wants to go places, whereas he's, "Going no place. You're nothing. Nobody," and when they get back home, she makes Henry get out of the car and tells him not to wait up before insulting him again and driving off into the night, obviously to be with Miles. After Henry kills their kleptomaniac maid the next day and hides the body, Janine arrives back home and insults him some more, unaware that he's there, and calls Miles, unknowingly letting Henry know that she's planning to go off with him. This tears it for Henry and when he follows her to the Bruiser office where she has sex with Miles, he corners her as Miles runs after Rosie. Not surprisingly, she remains completely unremorseful and the only thing that she can say is how he seems to have lost his mind, leading to Henry's murdering her, throwing one of her last insults back at her in the process.

The first time I saw the movie and it came to the introduction of Henry's friend, Jimbo, (Andrew Tarbet), I found myself wondering why the guy seemed so familiar to me until it suddenly hit me, "It's Booker from The Famous Jett Jackson!", which was a Disney Channel show I watched a lot when I was in middle school. However, the character Tarbet plays here is the exact opposite of the bumbling but likable deputy sheriff of Wilstead, North Carolina. At first, Jimbo seems like a decent, likable guy (save for how he doesn't remember his secretary's name and his fairly unsympathetic opinion of a man who shot himself on a radio show that morning), and one of the few friends that Henry has, promising to take care of his money problems and calling him to try offer help for him when hears of Janine's death. However, Jimbo's suspicious comment about an unexpectedly low return on an investment he handled for Henry ("You make it sound like I short-changed you") turns out to be foreshadowing of Henry's later discovery that he's been stealing money from his bank accounts and mutual funds. Henry confronts Jimbo about it at the local tennis club, asking him how he could do this to him after they've been friends for ten years, and Jimbo says that it was Janine's idea to steal the money and she kept the rest of it for herself. Jimbo tries to make things even by writing Henry a check for the entire $30,000 he's been cheated out of but when Henry makes it clear that he's not interested in money, that it won't make them anywhere near even, Jimbo pulls out a gun and shoots at him, saying that it's his fault for not noticing it sooner. Henry manages to kill Jimbo, who was just as unremorseful as everyone else, and disposes of his body. In the end, the only good bit of advice he gave Henry is to shoot someone other than yourself when you get really angry, which is what Henry does.

The one character who's always good to Henry and never betrays him is Miles' wife, Rosie (Leslie Hope). She knows him quite well, since she works at Bruiser too as a photographer, and it's clear that they're quite friendly with each other, as he picks his choice for Bruiser's September cover because of her. There's an obvious mutual attraction between them, as she's the most friendly and sympathetic towards Henry, much more so than Janine, and she also knows all too well what a piece of crap her husband is, having suspected his affair for a long time and planning on leaving him. She decides to get proof of his infidelity by taking a picture of him and Janine having sex in the Bruiser conference room. Things get complicated, though, when Janine is murdered and she becomes a suspect. Because of their mutual attraction, Henry tries to help her and eventually calls in to the popular radio show, clearing her name, although he's really frustrated with her for knowing about the affair as long as she did and continuing to live with Miles. Rosie says it's complicated and not as simple as murdering someone. She tells him, "I can understand what you did. I can't forgive it, and I can't forget it, but I can understand it." Henry, in turn, tells her not to betray herself by staying with Miles, although she obviously thinks that she's nothing. She follows Henry to Miles' party, trailed by McCleary, and tries to keep him from killing Miles, saying that there other ways to get what he wants and that any chance they had was destroyed when she found he was a murderer. She does say they could leave together but Henry says she's only doing that to save Miles, telling her to instead do what everyone else does and take advantage. In the end, she allows him to escape by wearing the costume he discarded and her own mask, which is blank just like his, while proclaiming to be the murderer.

I know you can't see his face but this is literally the only
image of Atkins in this movie I could find.
It's always nice to see Tom Atkins in a movie and he's likable enough as Detective McCleary but he can't make me like the movie, especially since he doesn't show up until 45 minutes in and isn't in it that much. Still, it's good to see him playing an old-fashioned, hard-nosed detective (you have to love how he uses the terms "dame" and a "cup of joe," as if we're in the 40's here) who doesn't take any crap, especially from Miles. He's so cool, that he simply lets the guy say what he has to say and doesn't lose his patience with him, until later on when he keeps interrupting Rosie while he's questioning her, saying, "Styles! The lady just asked you to shut the fuck up!", which is just so badass. You also got to love how he goes along with the joke that their only "witness" as to what happened at the Creedlow household is Janine's little poodle and he tells the dog her rights. Plus, I love him for pointing out how bizarre that party is, asking, "What the fuck is wrong with you people?!" He does mistakenly think that Rosie is the killer, going so far as to bet money on it, repeatedly saying, "The dame did it!", but he never becomes loathsome about it. When he and everyone else learns that Rosie is innocent, he still follows her to the party, hoping to catch Henry before he can kill Miles, but fails and loses him in the crowd when Rosie gives him the opportunity to escape. He talks to her about it afterward, getting no answer as to why she helped him, and asks her to give him a call if she ever finds Henry before he can... knowing full well that it'll probably never happen.

One other noteworthy character is another one of the few people who's decent to Henry, Tom Burtram (Jeff Monahan). Even though they work together, they barely know each other, but there is still something of a kinship between them since they share a mutual dislike of Miles and are both trotted on by him at the office. Tom stumbles across the aftermath of Henry's murder of Janine and while he does threaten Tom not to say anything to the police, he also tells him not to be like him and take any more crap from people. You find out that Tom actually considers Henry possibly the best friend he's ever had and doesn't tell the police anything when they bring him in for questioning as a suspect. When he admits this to the winning model, who's trying to blow him in his hot tub, it actually saves Tom's life as Henry is about to kill him because he thinks he talked but when he overhears him, he relents and even makes it clear on the radio show that, like Rosie he had no involvement in the murder. Tom, meanwhile, decides to get out of town while the getting's good... with or without the model, who's not happy about the idea.

Aside from all the despicable characters, Bruiser's very look makes it unpleasant to watch. First off, like all of George Romero's films since the millennium, it was filmed in Canada, specifically Toronto (where Romero lives and, although it's never specified, is possibly where the movie is set), and more often than not, films shot up there, especially those with very little money, tend to have a bland, generic look to them and this is no exception. It looks like a TV movie (the very cheap-looking, occasional CGI scene transitions don't help matters), and a very murky one, at that. While the exterior scenes look okay (fortunately, it's often nice and sunny in the exterior scenes, rather than gray, overcast, and depressing, as it can get in Canada), the interiors are filmed in a dark, ugly manner, with highlights of a nasty, amber-brown color in the lighting. Even the interiors of the Miles' rather posh mansion have this look to them. It's very uncomfortable, but not in a cold, clinical way; rather, it's a very seedy, scummy way, which I guess fits well with the characters of Miles and Janine, the latter of whom is having her and Henry's house remodeled, making it even more uninviting in how it looks with all that plastic hanging up and that button to a saw on the floor that Janine's dog has learned to press. Some shots in the movie are nice to look at, like some of those inside the Bruiser offices and when Henry confronts Jimmy at the tennis club, but for the most part, the movie is as unpleasant to look at as its characters are to watch.

George Romero has always been known for injecting political and social commentary into his films but, as he's gotten older, he's gone from being able to skillfully inject it into movies that are, first and foremost, entertaining, to only caring about the commentary itself. He's become so heavy-handed with it, in fact, that his films are no longer fun and you feel like you're being preached to, making him feel like a pretentious old man. Now, that said, I'm not going to dislike a movie just because it feels pretentious, mainly because it'd be awfully hypocritical of me, as a couple of my favorite filmmakers, Christopher Nolan and David Cronenberg, can often veer off into self-indulgence (especially the former). What matters to me is if a movie either entertains me or, at the very least, keeps me interested enough to where I can overlook its pretentiousness, and Bruiser, which seemed to be the start of Romero's habit of repeatedly whacking you over the head with what he's trying to say, doesn't, making it all the more tedious and hard to sit through. Obviously, the movie's main idea is that of identity in the modern world, how we define ourselves, and how that can be both hard to obtain and easily taken away... and boy, does Romero shove that idea down your throat constantly. There are so many lines that allude to this, like Henry's raving at Janine that he gave her everything and she's taken his identity, Rosie's question to him as to whether or not he can make others see him when presenting him with his mask to decorate, his comment to her that he's always been invisible, which is why he'll have no trouble evading the police, and on and on. While I do kind of like the idea of Henry slowly creating his own persona and identity as the film goes on by decorating his face with flesh-color makeup and then various, lurid colors, as I said earlier, the idea of his face actually becoming that blank mask in reality rather than in his mind makes the main theme far more literal than I think it should be. But I think what really got me was when Henry was reciting to himself as he made himself up: "The man had gone to market, to buy a diamond ring. The man who never noticed, that he was not a king. He choose the brightest sparkle, a diamond made of glass. The setting bright and gold, was crafted out of brass. The man spent all his money, the jeweler was a cheat. He told the man that royals, wore diamonds on their feet. The man went proudly walking, inside his shoe the ring. And no one ever told him, that he was not a king." At that point, I was so bored and irritated by this movie, to the point where it was sucking the life out of me, that I rolled my eyes and thought, "Romero, cut me a break."

It's especially frustrating when Romero perfectly alluded to the film's main theme early on. As the opening credits roll while Henry goes through his morning routine, he listens to a radio program where a guy calls in and talks to the asshole host about how he wants to kill himself, saying that it wouldn't affect him if he lived or died, and talks about how he lost the house he inherited from his father to the bank. He then says, "A guy spends his life working, paying what he owes, doing what he's supposed to do, can't leave his house to his only kid. What kind of mark has he made? You shovel shit all your life, and you don't even leave a mark? It's like you shouldn't bother. It's like you've never been here at all." Then there's a gunshot, indicating that the man just followed through on his threat of suicide... which doesn't affect the host at all. All while this is going on, we see that Henry knows how the guy feels and has his first fantasy, which is about killing himself. Later, when Henry is going through his routine the morning after he learns of his wife's infidelity, somebody calls in talking about the suicide, saying that he made an impression, for the first time in his life, he's been noticed... and eventually reveals himself to be said guy, saying, "I'm risen from the dead, and this time around, I'm not taking any shit from rat bastards like you. You treat us like garbage. Like we're nothing. Like we're not even here. Well, you can't turn a man into nothing. You try, you're the one that's gonna pay,"... just as Henry sees his now blank face and begins to embark on his murderous quest to retrieve his identity. I don't think Romero would have had to have reinforced his theme any further after those perfect parallels, don't you think?

I think many people see Romero as a master of truly gruesome horror but, if you think about it, outside of his living dead series, his films typically aren't that gory and that goes for Bruiser. While definitely a violent movie, the murders are almost completely bloodless. The first three deaths in the film are actually Henry's fantasies and the first, which him shooting himself through the bottom of his chin, is probably the bloodiest part of the movie with the splatter on the wall behind him. The second one is him fantasizing about beating up a woman who cut in line ahead of him while getting on the train to head into the city and placing her head on the track. He proceeds to beat up her husband, who jumps him, and knocks him down, as her head gets crushed by the train. You hear a nasty crunch when that happens but you don't see anything, as the transition back to reality obscures the aftermath. And finally, the third fantasy is of him killing Janine as she drives her car into the garage by grabbing an axe and smashing through the windshield at her; again, you don't see anything. The first actual murder is of Henry and Janine's thieving maid, whom he knocks over the couch by whacking her across the head with her bag full of stolen items. As he hides her body and puts things back the way they were, you see that some blood was splattered on the couch cushions, and as he hides from Janine with the body, having wrapped it in plastic, it starts to convulse before finally expiring, which does get to Henry when he sees it. His murder of Janine is one of the film's most brutal, as he wraps his tie around her neck after catching her underneath the conference table and then, after smashing out the window with a chair, throws her out while she's tied to an extension cord, breaking her neck and leaving her hanging there. Jimbo's death is long and drawn out, first causing him to trip over a stool in the tennis club locker room, seemingly causing him to break something, and then picking him up, slamming him against a locker, smacking him across the face with one of his documents, and pulling a gun on him, causing him to lose his balance and fall to the floor. Trying to save himself, Jimbo tells him to give him his briefcase so he can write Henry a check for all the money he's stolen from in and Henry does give it to him... by flinging the briefcase at his broken leg. When Jimbo pulls a gun out of his briefcase, Henry dodges the shots and shoots him back, square in the chest, causing him to slowly bleed to death before he can get another shot off. Henry dumps his body in the river, along with his new, expensive car that he bought his money, just as he did the maid. Fittingly, Miles' murder at his costume party is the most painful and elaborate, with Henry bribing some people into putting him into a special harness that's lowered down from the ceiling above the dance floor. Miles is enjoying himself, until Henry aims a special laser, meant to pop open pinatas, right at his balls. Defiant and unremorseful to the end, Miles sees Henry in the booth and once again calls him an ant, prompting Henry to shoot the laser right through his head, reciting the Bruiser motto, "We make heat," before he does.

Speaking of that party scene, when the film finally reached that point, I was well past the point of no return and wanted so badly for it to end. I'd been bored to death, had all the energy sucked out of me, and then, we get thrown into this bizarre costume party, where you have bizarre characters like a woman whose costume is a face on her torso (the eyes, which are on her boobs, light up), a woman with what looks like a birdcage on her head, a guy dressed up as a jester with blue face-paint (Boyd Banks, who's had roles in Jason X and the remake of Dawn of the Dead; another future Jason X actor, Peter Mensah, is also present as a skinhead), Miles dressed up in a red, Latino lothario-type of shirt and, fittingly, with a devil horn sticking out of one side of his forehead, a woman who's practically naked, the winning model for Bruiser dressed up as a geisha (she's not happy when she overhears Miles planning to replace her as the September cover model), and a bunch of people being lowered down from the ceiling in harnesses while dressed in leather, all while the band, The Misfits, plays on the stage. It is one weird as hell scene, one where Henry walking around in his Phantom of the Opera costume wouldn't draw much attention, and I wish I could find more images of this scene so you could see the lunacy. While it's the setting for the climax, involving not only Henry's final revenge on Miles but his being chased around and shot at by Detective McCleary and his partner, Rakowski (Jonathan Higgins), like I said, I didn't give a crap and was wishing that this endurance of a movie would wrap up already.

The music score by Donald Rubinstein (brother of distributor Richard Rubinstein and who's worked with George Romero before on Martin, Knightriders, and Tales from the Darkside, both the show and the movie) is just as melancholic and downbeat as the movie it accompanies, often sounding like a bluesy jazz whenever it accentuates Henry's pitiable situation. Honestly, though, that's all I can say about it, as the music has no memorable themes and all of the pieces run together for me. There are also a number of songs on the soundtrack, including some by the Misfits, whose music video for their song, Scream, was directed by Romero in exchange for them appearing in the film. Like the score, the songs that they sing during the climactic party scene run together to me and I can't tell one from another, although that said, I don't think they sounded all that bad, especially whichever one is playing when Miles gets his. Otherwise, save for a shitty cover of Take On Me by Wohlstandskinder that plays during the first part of the ending credits, I can't tell you much about any of the other songs on the soundtrack, which play during the pool party, when Miles and Janine have sex in the Bruiser conference room (it's a generic, salsa-like number), and at his and Rosie's house after Janine's death (I swear, I heard something there that sounded like a cover of Stevie Wonder's Superstition).

I'm not going to lie, guys, this wasn't an easy review to write. Not only is Bruiser an unpleasant, boring, vulgar (did you see how many times I wrote the word "fuck" while quoting it, especially Miles?), and pretentious movie, it's also so forgettable that I had to put the DVD in my computer's built-in Blu-Ray player so I could make sure I got a lot of the plot and character points right. Even then, I'm still not sure if I got everything (I thought Miles' name was "Milos" but it's written as "Miles" according to sources like Wikipedia and IMDB) and if I didn't, I apologize. This movie just drains me. Other than the character of Henry, the look of his mask and blank face, a couple of the supporting characters, and some occasional nice-looking bits of cinematography, there's not much about it I like. Most of the characters are loathsome, it has an unpleasant, murky look to it most of the time, it's so vulgar and sleazy at times that it makes me roll my eyes, the music and songs are forgettable, and, above everything else, it's so heavy-handed and pretentious in what it's trying to say. Maybe it's meant to be allegorical but it's still too much and makes it even more of a chore to sit through. Since I haven't seen all of Romero's movies, I can't rightfully say that this is his absolute worst, as I've heard There's Always Vanilla and Survival of the Dead are much worse, but this is still a major low-point in my opinion. Given his cult status, I'm sure there are fans of this movie out there who get more from it than I do and they're welcome to it. For me, all I can say in conclusion is what a way for Romero to return to directing after almost a decade.

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