Bruiser is an interesting psychological thriller written and directed by George A Romero. This is the story of a mild-mannered and downtrodden man going through an empowering identity crisis which sees him hit back at his tormentors in vicious fashion. Bruiser is a tense, well-written movie as Romero brings his skill to bear and turns out his usual brand of intelligent horror.
Henry is a doormat, his grasping gold-digger wife has no respect for him, his overbearing boss treats him like an idiot, his best friend is secretly betraying him and even his maid regularly steals from his home. Following a humiliating argument with his wife, in which she reveals just how little she thinks of poor Henry, he finally snaps. He feels he no longer has an identity and upon awakening to discover his face has become a blank mask Henry changes dramatically.
Revenge is the dish of the day and Henry embarks on a veritable feast of bloody vengeance. His new found anonymity seems to allow the repressed rage built up over years to come flooding out. The maid is the first to go as Henry resolves to be pushed around no longer and although her death is accidental he develops a taste for it and soon proves himself an accomplished murderer.
The direction is superb as Romero continues to prove his ability to scare without resorting to paint by numbers tactics. He builds tension effortlessly, always gets the best of the atmosphere in locations and strikes a perfect pace. The shots are beautifully set-up and there is little to suggest the low-budget nature of this movie.
Romero also wrote the script and so it is interesting and well thought out, some of the ideas at play here are pretty familiar but he makes them feel fresh and original. There are several good gags and a strong streak of black humour throughout. The plot is straight-forward but Romero brings his satirical eye to bear with some nice comments and characterizations. The grotesque boss character, the dim-witted cops and the vacuous wannabe models willing to sleep their way to the top all get targeted with some witty writing here.
The cast involved does a decent job. Jason Flemyng convinces as the mousy Henry Creedlow, although he isn´t a very likeable character. Peter Stormare plays his cokehead boss, Milo Styles, a loud womanizing moron with a superiority complex. Stormare really hams it up in the role and makes Milo into comic relief. The rest of the cast is fairly forgettable.
The image of the masked killer is familiar but the specific face chosen here is genuinely quite chilling and the theme of lost identity is an appealing one. Henry is never noticed, he is quiet and displays no obvious personality; he is an emotional outsider (by chris at testsforge). The frenzied way he goes about his transformation isn´t always convincing and some of the scenes towards the end, especially at the big party, lean towards comedy. The Misfits soundtrack, which includes them playing at the party in the film didn´t add to my enjoyment either but on the whole Bruiser works well.
The movie was released in 2000 but didn´t get the publicity it probably deserves. Bruiser was obviously classified as a horror by the promoters because of Romero but he is more than capable of operating in other genres. It is more of a psychological thriller than a horror film and it certainly isn´t Romero´s best work but it is enjoyable and easily better than the majority of releases. The film lasts 99 minutes and for the most part this is both funny and scary.