Bruiser

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Bruiser

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Since 1968's Night Of The Living Dead, George Romero has specialized in creating chilling horror films that do double duty as pointed social commentary. Absent since 1993's The Dark Half, Romero sat out most of the last decade, his presence all the more sorely missed in the glut of sub-par horror films that followed Scream. The low-budget Bruiser, making an undignified direct-to-video debut, marks his return, and it arrives with Romero's old concerns intact, playing like a postscript to the Clinton era and finding a dark side to the economic boom. Put-upon and unnoticed both in his unfinished house and at his fashion-magazine job, Jason Flemyng entertains fantasies of violence against himself and those around him, suppressing his emotions in an attempt to better himself in the long run. Is he on the path to self-destruction, or is he a Patrick Bateman in the making? Bruiser takes little time to answer that question, which must be counted as its chief flaw. Shortly after attending a barbecue at the home of his abusive boss (Peter Stormare, in an amusingly over-the-top performance), Flemyng becomes aware that his wife (Nina Garbiras) has been cheating on him with their host. Leaving with a blank mask designed as a party favor by Stormare's wife (Leslie Hope), Flemyng awakes the next day to find it attached to his face, a physical confirmation of his suspected anonymity. It's a brilliant, almost Kafka-esque setup for a horror film, but Romero quickly tips the story in the most obvious direction, crafting a fairly ugly revenge fantasy that allows Flemyng to work his way through a checklist of past oppressors. (To Romero's credit, an obnoxious poodle, introduced while turning on a bandsaw, is spared its obvious fate.) Well-crafted technically and still many cuts above the average direct-to-video horror film, Bruiser is nonetheless a disappointingly one-note effort from a director capable of much better.

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