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The most disappointing thing about Bruiser, the new film by George Romero, is that it's been so long since his last film. The Dark Half was released in '93 to mixed reviews. After so much down time, one would expect him to return to film with energy and excitement. Unfortunately, Bruiser is a listless film, by a director who seems to be just going through the motions.
Put upon yuppie executive, Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng), is married to a bitch (Nina Garbiras), and works for a jackass (Peter Stomare). His best friend (Andrew Tarbet) is ripping him off. Even his pet poodle doesn't respect him. People treat him like a faceless nobody. When he awakes one morning to find he really does have no face, he takes murderous revenge in order to restore his identity.
While on paper it may sound like a workable film, in practice, Bruiser is dull and muted. Romero has always worked well in a minor key. But here, there are no highlights to break the quiet. Moments of fantasy are meant to be shocking and funny, but play listlessly. When the hero's violent fantasy turn into reality, they play no better. What little blood and mayhem there is too tame to be visceral, and too predictable to be shocking.
Another big problem is with the films hero. Jason Flemyng never wins sympathy from the audience. He isn't engaging or convincing as the harassed underdog. Nor is he particularly joyful or energetic as the avenging anti-hero. Quite simply, his victims are more interesting than he is.
The script is literate and satirical. The actors are game, and all contribute fine performances. The film simply lacks any kind of spark of excitement.
Were Bruiser the work of some young director, or TV hack, it would not be such a disappointment. But coming from George Romero, it is a major letdown. While his two previous films, The Dark Half and Monkey Shines, were competent, tense commercial thrillers, Bruiser is just a stiff. It stumbles along, plodding forward with not a spark of life. Sorta like a zombie.