Directed by Josh C. Waller, 2013's Raze gives stuntwoman Zoe Bell (probably best known for appearing in Tarantino's Death Proof a chance to strut her stuff in a leading role. When the movie begins, a woman named Jamie (Rachel Nichols) is on a date with her boyfriend explaining to him why she wants to really go for it in terms of her kickboxing training. This comes in handy when shortly after this talk, she's kidnapped and drugged and wakes up in some sort of underground cell. She makes her way out and runs into another kidnapped woman named Sabrina (Zoe Bell) who is dressed in an outfit identical to her own: sweat pants and a white shirt.
While initially it seems like Jamie and Sabrina wound naturally team up to make their way out, no dice! It turns out they, and a few others, have been kidnapped by a gang of nut jobs run by a man named Joseph (Doug Jones) and a woman named Elizabeth (Sherilyn Fenn) who are making these ladies fight to the death. If they refuse, they see their families and loved ones killed by way of a series of hidden cameras set up, so you can see where their motivation to survive would come from. On top of that, the winner will be set free. From here on out, a series of death matches between the combatants plays out and while Sabrina isn't the type of woman who enjoys hurting others, she doesn't want her daughter's life to end by way of a conveniently placed gunman either. Things are about to get ugly…
Raze doesn't have an original bone in its cinematic body but it is well paced and it does feature some fantastic fight scenes. The story is essentially little more than a device to string together those fight scenes, nothing gets too deep here, but the characters are established just enough that we want to see how this all plays out. Zoe Bell is likeable in the lead. She's got an intrinsic sincerity to her work here that compliments her physical skills and abilities in a good way and combined, those traits make her very suited for this type of role. It's not a part that demands a huge range or that is overly complicated, instead it focuses on letting her do what she does and in this particular case, what she does is beat the ever loving Hell out of a lot of other people. The rest of the cast? Okay as well. Rachel Nichols is also fine here and both Doug Jones and Sherilyn Fenn do fine work as the creepy couple pulling the strings with all of this insanity.
The movie borrows elements from movies like Battle Royale, Fight Club, Saw and maybe elements of The Most Dangerous Game and outside of the fact that it's lead by a predominantly female cast, Raze fails to show us much that we haven't seen before. Waller keeps the violence coming fast and the blood flowing steadily taking female aggression to heights not typically displayed the way they are here in the action genre but that doesn't eliminate the fact that the movie in many ways is fairly generic.
Thankfully it's easy enough to look past this if you've got an appetite for low budget action fare and a big part of why that is would be Bell's commitment to her part. Additionally the cinematography is decent, the fight choreography is top notch and the score is both effective and catchy. Don't go into this one expecting a masterpiece, it doesn't really shoot for that, but Raze succeeds as base action-intensive entertainment.
Raze arrives on DVD framed at 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen. The interior scenes are dark, gritty, grimy and ugly while the exteriors show quite a contrast with nice, natural lighting and good color reproduction. Obviously this is all intentional on the part of the filmmakers and it would seem to accurately reflect the conditions that they want us to feel the character in. So as such, don't except the movie to really show off the way a film shot with a different aesthetic in mind might. Aside from that, the image is stable and clean. Detail is good for a standard definition offering and while there are a few spots where you can pick up on some minor compression artifacts, aside from that the disc is well authored and the movie typically looks really good here.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, which includes optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish, sounds very good. There's a lot of surround activity present throughout the movie but not so surprisingly it is during the fight scenes where the movie really shines. There's a lot of power behind the hand to hand combat and the accompanying sound effects and the mix delivers this very effectively. Bass response is solid, dialogue stays clean and properly balanced and there are no issues with hiss or distortion to note.
The supplements on the disc start off with a pretty active group commentary featuring Zoe Bell director Josh Waller, actor Andrew Pagana and writer Kenny Gage. With all of the principal players involved in the production included here, we get a really thorough overview of pretty much every aspect of the production. Covered during the discussion are the writing process, casting the film, the fight and stunt choreography, character development and quite a bit more. If you want to know more about the movie, this is the way to do it as it doesn't really leave you with a whole lot of questions once it's over and done with.
Most of the folks on the commentary appear again in the fifteen minutes worth of cast and crew interviews. Some of the same ground is covered here but these are interesting enough to watch once. More interesting than that, however, is the original twenty minute short film on which the feature version was based. Without going into spoiler territory there are some pretty big differences between this version and the longer, feature cut and some interesting shifts in character as well. This is definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed the feature. Also on hand is a twelve minute behind the scenes featurette that shows off some interesting footage shot on set during the production, a quick three minute making of featurette that is a really rudimentary look at the overall production, a more interesting five minute piece on the fight choreography, and another two minute generic behind the scenes piece.
The disc also includes a whole lot of excised material not seen in the finished film, starting with approximately thirty-five minutes of deleted scenes, some of which are quite interesting as they allude to how and why the prison exists and why some of the female combatants in the film are where they are. Including some of this material would probably have made the running time too bulky but at the same time, it might have made for a more interesting story. Also on hand is a two minute extended fight sequence showing some alternate footage from the big brawl and a five minute gag reel. Rounding out the extras on the disc are three different trailers, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. There's a LOT of stuff included in the extras section of this DVD.
Raze isn't deep but it does what it does pretty well and makes good use of an interesting cast. The movie goes at a pretty quick pace and keeps the intensity level high throughout. Bell's fans will get more out of this than others but it's hard not to appreciate her work here. The DVD is loaded with extras and it looks and sounds quite good. Not sure how much replay this one will have but it is worth seeing. Recommended for action movie enthusiasts, a solid rental for the masses.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.