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  Bruiser Thank You Mask Man
Year: 2000
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Jason Flemyng, Peter Stormare, Leslie Hope, Nina Garbiras, Andrew Tarbet, Tom Atkins, Jonathan Higgins, Jeff Monahan, Marie V. Cruz, Beatriz Pizano, Tamsin Kelsey, Kelly King, Susanne Sutchy, Balázs Koós, Jean Daigle, Chris Gillet, Chantal Quesnelle
Genre: Drama, Thriller, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) works for a top fashion magazine and is married to a powerful businesswoman (Nina Garbiras), but somehow he remains the downtrodden nobody he never wanted to be. He wakes up this morning and tends to his ablutions, but as he showers and shaves his attention is captured by the talk radio station he is listening to, where a man on the verge of suicide is being talked down by the host. Only not too well, as the call sounds as if it ends with the man killing himself, something which greatly disturbs Henry though for the rest of the day he cannot find anyone to discuss it with. But Henry has destructive impulses too...

The worm that turns is an age old plot device, and cult horror movie maker George A. Romero thought he would have a go at it in Bruiser, produced in the lean years when he was having trouble getting anything made, a good fifteen years or so of inactivity aside from this out of character entry in his oeuvre. It was an international co-production, but where Romero thought he was making an oddball drama about a man who is pushed so far by life that he eventually lashes out, the company he made it for decided it would garner more profits if it was sold as a horror movie, which was something it wasn't, not really.

Thus a lot of Romero's fans, and fans of horror in general, have been disappointed by Bruiser, though there were, as there always have to be when dealing with an auteur with the loyal following this one had, viewers who the film appealed to and were willing to go along with it to whatever destination it saw fit; they trusted Romero, essentially. That trust may have been misplaced, for where he was able to establish the premise with a genuine degree of intrigue, the way it played out sprawled to a conclusion which wrapped very little up, aside from the obviously rather final fate some characters met at the hands of Henry. The notion that to stand up for yourself you had to resort to violence wasn't exactly healthy, however.

That idea that might is right, that a hard punch in the face to your antagonists was as good as sorting your problems out in peaceful fashion, was not exclusive to this, after all there's many a vigilante thriller that takes that as its jumping off point, but from a filmmaker of of Romero's intelligence you might have been hoping for more. In a sense, that's what he delivered, crafting a sort of masked avenger who will put those who would run roughshod over their fellow man (or woman) in their place, except without irony it is he who has become worse than them by resorting to murder. The mask comes in when Henry goes to a poolside party arranged by his obnoxious boss (Peter Stormare) and is given one based on his face by the boss's artistic wife (Leslie Hope).

That the boss is glimpsed getting a handjob from Henry's wife doesn't improve our anti-hero's mood any, and soon on the way home he's having a row which ends with the missus heading off alone to some other good time, far from Henry. When he awakens the next morning, something is very different: that mask has apparently stuck to his face overnight, and he cannot get it off; we never find out why this has happened other than it being the manifestation of his anger, and the way he can now get away with whatever he wants if his identity is hidden. Then again, it might be all in his mind and that's what we're seeing, except that others seem to be able to see the mask too, and there's certainly a CCTV clip of him so attired, so it could all be real. This refusal to be pinned down extended to the themes as well, with whatever you were meant to take away from this confused at best and terminally vague at worst; as it built towards a setpiece ending at a nightclub, comedy might have been the intention, but it wasn't particularly funny either. Music by Donald Rubinstein (and The Misfits!).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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George A. Romero  (1940 - 2017)

American writer/director and one of the most influential figures in modern horror cinema, whose ability to write strong scripts and characters match his penchant for gory chills. The Pittsburgh native began his career directing adverts before making Night of the Living Dead in 1968. This bleak, scary classic ushered in a new era of horror film-making, but Romero struggled initially to follow it up - There's Always Vanilla is a little-seen romantic drama, and Jack's Wife was butchered by its distributor. The Crazies was a flop but still an exciting slice of sci-fi horror, and while the dark vampire drama Martin again made little money but got Romero some of the best reviews of his career and remains the director's personal favourite.

In 1978 Romero returned to what he knew best, and Dawn of the Dead quickly became a massive international hit. Dawn's success allowed Romero to make the more personal Knightriders, and he teamed up with Stephen King to direct the horror anthology Creepshow. The intense, underrated Day of the Dead, spooky Monkey Shines and half of the Poe-adaptation Two Evil Eyes followed. The Dark Half, based on Stephen King's novel, was Romero's last film for nine years, and he returned in 2000 with the strange Bruiser. A fourth Dead film, Land of the Dead, was released in 2005, and lower budgeted fifth and sixth instalments rounded off the decade.

 
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