Aside from a cool name, the presence of starlet Jennifer Tisdale and still dreamy Rachel Hunter, and a maniacally watchable performance from Michael Madsen, what does the new thriller The Brazen Bull have to offer? Unfortunately, not much. The film seems rushed, and at times muddled, and is a little scanty in the way of thrills.
Tisdale plays Lauren, a young woman who invests in foreclosed real estate along with her fiancée Tyler (David Frank Fletcher, Jr). They purchase the foreclosed properties, fix them up and resell or develop them. Tagging along with them to do a documentary film is Lauren's friend Ashley (Gwendolyn Garver), and never far away is Lauren's police detective mother, played by Rachel Hunter.
The trouble starts when the couple acquires a rundown office building. They arrive to do a walk through inspection, along with Ashley, and split up to get the job done faster, and hopefully find the contractor who was supposed to meet them there. Instead, they meet The Man (as he is credited), played by Michael Madsen, who locks them in the building, and gets busy with the torturing and murdering to wreak his revenge. Revenge for what? It seems that The Man was the previous owner of the building, and Tyler had colluded with a city official to "steal his building". It involved blocking The Man's request to get the zoning changed to residential, or some such. Soon after acquiring the building, Tyler was able to get the zoning changed with no problem. And the building's value skyrockets. The Man feels that his life has been destroyed, and is intent on killing everyone who helped it happen.
Various cat and mouse games, walking down dingy hallways, torture and craziness ensue. There are a few moments of dread, a decent scare or two, and Madsen's intense and crazed performance, but these are about the all there is as far as high points. The main characters are unlikeable. Tyler is a self centered, squishy fellow, and Lauren at times tends toward a whiny harridan. The two bicker constantly, and are right neither for each other or as sympathetic leads. The stilted and awkward dialogue they share doesn't help, and they don't interact naturally as a couple. There is also some clumsy exposition. The Man spends one long scene straight out narrating why he is seeking revenge, and the bald exposition is saved only by Madsen's engaging read. One other thing, though slight, is bothersome. Lauren and Ashley spend a lot of time trying to get out of the building, but all the doors are locked. They naturally try to call for help on their cell phones, but can't get a signal, even on the roof. It is never explained why this is so. Did The Man install some kind of cell phone blocker? Is the building in the middle of nowhere? Of course, a vital task in any kind of film of this nature is to explain why those involved don't call for help. Here, the question is just left hanging, hoping that the audience will accept it.
The brazen bull referenced in the title is a sort of metaphor for revenge used by The Man, and in the end, even though he is a vicious psychopath, the viewer has a wee bit of sympathy for him, perhaps even a bit more than for the victims of his crimes. Perhaps this was intended by the filmmakers. If their intent was also to make a taut and engaging thriller, however, they failed. The protagonists are too unlikeable. The action is too slow. The story is too muddy. This is not to say that The Brazen Bull is without merit. Michael Madsen is at his crazy best here, but the film itself is a rental only.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good. The action is always clear and the colors are bright and rich. Please note that this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The sound is available both as Dolby digital 5.1 channel and 2.0 channel. No problems are apparent, and the dialogue is always clearly audible, but nothing much is demanded. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included. Please note that this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
There are only a couple of extras included on the disc. They are:
This is an effective trailer for The Brazen Bull, and is actually more exciting than the film.
Behind the Scenes
At just under nine minutes, the behind the scenes feature includes interviews with two of the writers, Thomas Bilyeu and Chris Van de Polder, and with cast members Jennifer Tisdale and Michael Madsen, along with a few others. It is fairly interesting, but slight.
Please note that this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quantity or quality of the extras included on the final product.
The Brazen Bull does have some good points. It is competently filmed, though with mostly mediocre performances. Michael Madsen is great, as are the gore effects, which are quite realistic. But the slow pace, moments of confusion, and less than stellar dialogue drag it down. It could have been greater with more care, but ends up as something of a dud.