Film: Raze

Director: Josh Waller; Writer: Robert Beaucage

Chosen because: Female protagonist and a predominantly female cast in a stereotypically “male” genre; Produced by Zoe Bell, and two other female Executive Producers  – Rachel Nichols, and Allene Quincy

I really need more people to go and see the film Raze, which is now in several cities across the country, because I need to be able to talk to more people about what they think about the ending!

Raze opens with a young woman named Jamie (Rachel Nichols) talking with a guy in a bar. Next thing she knows, she’s unconscious and wakes up in a dark, underground room. As she tries to escape, she meets another young woman, Sabrina (played by awesome stuntwoman and actress, Zoe Bell), and they walk together under the pretense that they’re looking for a way out.  But Sabrina leads Jamie into an enclosed, circular, stone-walled room with a steel door that shuts behind them and starts kicking the crap out of her for no reason. When Jamie asks her why, Sabrina says “Because we have to.”

Sabrina isn’t the only woman there. There are about fifty or so chosen (rather, kidnapped) by this crazy and ancient cult that does this every year because something-something-Greek mythology-something-something-women are powerful-something-something.  The women have to fight each other, tournament-style, to the death. The “winner” gets to leave and is crowned Princess of I Fucked All These Bitches Up, or somesuch. In order to force them into fighting rather than just escaping, killing themselves or letting themselves be killed, each woman has a loved one that the cult is targeting and has surveillance on. So, if the woman refuses to fight, she risks someone killing her child, or her husband, or her parent…

I enjoyed this movie muchly, because:

1) It was an amazing metaphor for what women face on a day-to-day basis. Not that we’re pitted against each other in brutal fights to the death – but we are pitted against each other in other ways. Especially if we’re powerful. Because God forbid there be more than one powerful woman at the top, amirite? It was also a great metaphor for how women are taught to do things, or sacrifice themselves, or put themselves through hell for other people. These women were encouraged to fight “for your daughter,” or “for your mother,” or “for your fiance.” But Tracie Thoms’ character has an amazing line where she basically says, “Any of those people you care about can be taken away from you anyway. You have to fight for yourself.” You have to deem yourself worth saving, because at the end of the day any other reason for staying alive doesn’t matter – you should be doing it because you want to survive and thrive.

2) There was a diverse cast of women. I don’t just mean racially, though they were that (shout-out to Tracie Thoms and Rosario Dawson, who is also in this film). I mean as far as personality types. There were women who were scared, there were women who were brave, and there were women who were driven insane by the experience. And there was one woman who loved violence and couldn’t wait to get her hands on anyone and everyone. It wasn’t just a parade of “kick-ass women.” They were real, average women under crazy, heightened circumstances. Some, like Zoe Bell’s character, had military training. Others had kickboxing experience, or gymnastics experience. They were all chosen because they were a certain level of physically fit/trained so that the fights would be interesting…but they weren’t Superwomen, and that’s what made this film so frightening, and what many of these women had to do all the more amazing. To top it all off, one of the leaders of the crazy cult is a woman, played by Sherilyn Fenn, and she sees what she’s doing as beneficial to women – well, to the one woman who survives. Sabrina asks her at one point, “How can you do this to other women?”

Her answer is not fucking cool.

3) There was also some crazy-amazing fight scenes, and if you’re a fan of stylized, violent fare, like I am, you will LOVE this. At first, the fights were too brutal to watch. But by the middle of the movie, I was actively, viscerally rooting for certain characters to kick other characters’ asses. So, not only is this a movie about women and their place in the world, but it’s about violence and how we, the viewers, respond to it. Even if violence isn’t your thing, you have to admire the phenomenal fight choreography. It takes a lot of work to make a fake fight look so intensely brutal.

Anyway, all this doesn’t mean the movie was perfect. Some of the shots, particularly when related to Sabrina and her daughter, were really heavy-handed and schmaltzy. And then there was that ending; that ending that I personally didn’t like, but that I know could be great conversation fodder – I’m still not sure if “being conversation fodder” is good enough for an ending, which is part of the reason why I want to hear what others think about it!

In any case, go see Raze if it’s playing in a city near you. And then find me so we can talk about it. 🙂