Dir: Josh Waller. US. 2013. 87mins
An exploitation movie in the classic style of Roger Codman’s women-in-prison flicks – or ‘chicks in chains’ as they were also often dubbed – Raze is a bold and bloody B-movie that despite being vaguely titillating is all about the violence and not the sex.
It is the sort of film that is an easy fit at genre festivals.
It is a film that takes no prisoners. It presents a bleak and rather unsettling backdrop where kidnapped women – all sporting tight white vests and grey sweat pants (waitsband folded down, and one leg rolled up) – are forced to fight for their very survival….against each other. It is a disturbing and at times very unpleasant film to watch, but it has cult potential, especially given the strong cast, which includes Zoe Well (Tarantino’s favorite stunt woman), Rachel Nichols and even – in a cameo – Rosario Dawson.
It is the sort of film that is an easy fit at genre festivals – and with Nichols and Bell among the producers they will no doubt be there to support it – and while not an easy formal theatrical release, it has DVD and download written all over it.
There is an assumption in the opening scenes that Rachel Nichols will be the film’s heroine. Her character Jamie has talked – in a pre-capture scene – about wanting to be a kick boxer, and suddenly she finds herself in a battle against the seemingly more mild-mannered Sabrina (Bell). It is a bloody, nasty and visually graphic tussle that sees Sabrina on top…and it is her story the film follows.
It seems Sabrina is just one of many identically dressed women who are watched over by brutal guards who are there simply to fight and die. Female gladiators there for the visual enjoyment of faceless folk who watch by television monitors.
Their battles are overseen by the engagingly oddball Doug Jones and his smiling and motherly wife (Sherilyn Fen), but while the film toys with the implications of the gladiatorial aspect it never develops any depth to what is happening. It sort of lies between Death Race and The Hunger Games…but appears to be happening for no particular reason apart from visual sport.
What follows is a series of bloody and increasingly nasty girl-fights – punctuated by a cameo from Rosario Dawson – as Sabrina starts thinning down the numbers, while also looking for any way of escape. But this is an environment where the male oppressors (and Fenn) hold the power. What the film lacks is some more detailed character development…especially as most women are dressed the same and tend to meet nasty demises. But it is rare starring role for Zoe Bell, and she certainly has the physical presence to more than hold her own.
Production companies: Cinipix, Quincy Pictures, XYZ Films
International sales: Cinipix, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Kenny Gage, Zoe Bell, Andrew Pagana, Josh Waller
Executive producers: Allene Quincy, Rachel Nichols, Bill Ceresia, Matthew Hayden
Screenplay: Robert Beaucage
Cinematography: Dylan O’Brien
Editor: Brett Bachman
Production designer: Rob Howeth
Music: Frank Riggio
Main cast: Zoe Bell, Rachel Nichols, Rebecca Marshall, Tracie Thoms, Bailey Anne Borders, Rosario Dawson, Allene Quincy, Doug Jones, Sherilyn Fenn, Bruce Thomas