Bruiser (May 3/03)
Bruiser's a bit of an oddity. It marked George A. Romero's first film in nearly a decade, so presumably he spent a lot of time working on its script. But even if you're willing to go with the film's outlandish premise (a meek man wakes up one morning to find a blank mask staring back at him), Romero's flaccid direction and stilted dialogue ends up souring whatever impact the film might've had.
Jason Flemyng stars as Henry Creedlow, a semi-successful but wholly unassuming man with a decent job at a magazine called Bruiser. Henry's accepted the fact that he's a nice guy and a pushover; his wife, Janine (Nina Garbiras), has not. She's having an affair with Henry's boss, the slightly insane Milo (Peter Stormare). After making a mask out of clay at a friends house one night, Henry wakes up the following morning to find that said mask has replaced his face. He doesn't question this; instead, he uses his newfound anonymity to get revenge on the various folks in his life that have wronged him.
Bruiser is clearly meant to operate as both a social satire and horror flick, but it's effective in neither realm. The film's premise is inherently a silly one, so Romero would've had to do a lot of legwork to convince us of its validity. The transformation of Henry into "faceless" (as the press dubs him) is so poorly done - Henry hardly even questions the fact that he no longer has a face - that the remainder of the movie suffers because of it. Aside from a brief sequence in which he tries to pull the mask off, Henry accepts this bizarre turn of events and immediately becomes an entirely different person. Within minutes of making the discovery, he kills his maid for stealing from him; this is the same guy who saw his wife making out with another man but didn't say anything. Obviously, the whole point of the movie is that now that Henry's essentially had his identity removed, he can finally do everything he's always wanted to. But since he was such a mild-mannered man to begin with, his immediate transformation doesn't ring true at all.
There's not much subtlety in Romero's script, and the broad strokes with which he's painted the central character applies to the supporting cast as well. The best example of this is Stormare's Milo, an absurdly over-the-top concoction that no doubt represents what Romero perceives to be the worst excesses of success. As a result, the character is hardly believable and Stormare's ridiculous histrionics are more distracting than anything else. Then again, it's not like any of the other figures in the film are grounded in reality, so in the grand scheme of things, Stormare's performance works. But it's a shame that Romero's taken the easy way out in developing the various story arcs, since he's populated the film with quite a few talented actors.
As for the horror aspect of the film, it's virtually non-existent. Once Henry becomes "faceless," the film essentially turns into a slasher movie as he stalks his victims and dispatches them in semi-creative ways. But even this portion of the movie has been done better before, and since we don't have anything invested in any of the characters, it's impossible to care or feel sorry for Henry's prey.
Unless you're a die hard Romero fan, it's unlikely Bruiser will have much of an impact. Even his much maligned adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Half was more effective than this, and just goes to show that a nifty premise isn't enough to sustain a 100-minute movie.