BruiserAfter an eight-year absence George Romero, one of the horror film’s grand masters, returns. BRUISER doesn’t live up to Romero’s best work but it’s not a complete disaster, either. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait as long for Romero’s next film (thankfully, we didn’t!).

The original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and MARTIN are enough to insure George Romero a permanent place in the horror movie hall of fame, but his more recent efforts—DAY OF THE DEAD, MONKEY SHINES, the first segment of the two part anthology TWO EVIL EYES and THE DARK HALF—have left me cold. Could it be that Romero, like fellow aging horror-meisters John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, is losing his touch?

Well, after nearly eight years and at least a dozen aborted projects, Romero’s back with BRUISER (2000), a film he wrote and directed the old-fashioned way: with a minimal budget and a cast composed largely of unknowns (FARGO’S Peter Stormare is the biggest “star”), thus allowing himself total control. The result? As I said, it’s no disaster, but it isn’t exactly a success, either.

Henry has problems: his wife doesn’t respect him, his friends dump on him and, worst of all, he’s stuck in a job he despises. He’s plagued by murderous visions that occur unexpectedly throughout the movie’s first 20 or so minutes—it’s clear this nutcase is going to snap, and it’s probably best not to be around when he does!

What follows is a gorefest that falls somewhere between DEATH WISH and HALLOWEEN. Romero is nothing if not intelligent, and he was clearly trying to make a serious statement about contemporary alienation; but his noble intentions are torpedoed by clunky dialogue (such as Henry’s climactic declaration that “I finally stood up for myself!”) and a main character who, as played (blandly) by Jason Flemying, doesn’t work as a Travis Bickle-styled anti hero or Dirty Harry-styled avenging angel.

This is quite a slick exercise, packed with extremely well handled action and suspense sequences. The shock scenes, of which there are quite a few, are flawlessly executed, particularly the fantasy murders of the beginning, which come without notice and are quite effective. Romero is still one of the sharpest talents in the business, but I really wish he had better material to work with.

Vital Statistics

Le Studio Canal

Director: George Romero
Producers: Peter Grunwald, Ben Barenholtz
Screenwriter: George Romero
Cinematography: Adam Swica
Editor: Miume Jan Eramo
Cast: Jason Flemying, Peter Stormare, Leslie Hope