“Raze” fails to put up its dukes

Raze poster

Actor and stuntwoman extraordinaire Zoe Bell is the one redeeming factor in Raze, a transparent exploitation movie that can’t come up with a good reason to make women fight to the death, much less find anything interesting to say about it. Its script, written with the enthusiasm of a dad trying to get his kids to sleep, whips together a quick backstory about a secret society of rich people who kidnap athletic women and coerce them into one-on-one death matches because they worship Greek maenads or something. It’s the cheapest excuse imaginable to dress up fit, mid-thirties women in white tank tops and let their hair down before they beat on each other in a brick silo over and over again.

That may be all the setup you need for a few no-holds-barred fight scenes, especially if you know they’re headed up by the notable Bell, mostly known for sliding around the hood of a Dodge Challenger in Death Proof, but any hopes of Raze transcending its B-movie status are grounded by editing that’s choppier than the Drake Passage, giving the fight scenes a middling uniformity that doesn’t showcase any of the actors’ physicality. Kenny Gage makes an alright stab at choreography, more than he does at writing anyway, but everything ends up looking like garden variety blunt-force North American wrasslin’ by the end.

Hiding behind a thick curtain of bangs is the magnetic Bell, who does her best to stand out from the rest of the one-note characters with her scarred intensity, and even if it’s just by her association with Tarantino that we may hope to find something more curious in her presence, it’s always compelling to see what she does onscreen. Otherwise, it’s Rebecca Marshall as mean girl Phoebe who has the most fun talking trash and going psychotic on her fellow fighters, turning the situation to her advantage and acting like she signed up for all this stuff in the first place.

Murky, uninteresting, and too serious for its own good, Raze misses the guilty pleasure mark by a mile, just getting by with a few wince-inducing punches and takedowns. It’s a shame the parts in between couldn’t do any heavier lifting, because with fight scenes this boring, Raze needs all the help it can get.

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