Bruiser (2000)

bruiserBruiser is an appropriate follow-up to our last post, They Live; both are almost-great films by directors who we know can be great. This time it is George Romero’s turn to take a great idea and turn it into an okay movie. Bruiser might in fact mark the beginning of the end for great Romero movies; everything he made afterwards have been mediocre cash-ins of the great zombie craze of The Aughts.
One thing Bruiser has going for it: there are no zombies! At least, not overtly, though our hero (if one dares to call him that) Henry Creedlow lives life an awful lot like one. He works for a magazine called, uh, Bruiser, where everyone is obsessed with image and status, especially Miles Styles, Henry’s boss (and the resident hot-shot). The only other decent human being that seems to work for the company is Rosemary, who just happens to be Styles’ wife, and who also has filed for divorce.
Working with a bunch of superficial assholes is one thing, but trying to live up to the standards of one you live with is another entirely. Unfortunately, Henry’s home life might be a little shittier than his work life; his wife Janine is never satisfied with the things Henry works so hard to give her. Their “home” is under constant construction, their car isn’t hot, fast or expensive enough, and the money she wants to spend just isn’t there. Henry is always trying his best to impress, but in the end, he does exactly the opposite: some drunken party-goers agree that Henry is nothing but a “blank slate,” an unremarkable, unnoticeable man who leaves no impression. The point is driven home when Henry sits at the bar and watches his wife diddle Styles and does absolutely nothing about it.
The next morning, he wakes up to two horrifying things. First, his wife Janine never came home from what must have been an all-night romp with Styles. Second, his face is gone, and in its place is a white mask that won’t come off. At first he panics, but as soon as his thieving maid shows up he starts to realize the opportunity behind the mask;  that anonymity presents an excellent opportunity to exact revenge upon all of those who have made his life miserable all these years. Unfortunately for the maid, she’s first on the list.
Here’s where the movie gets a little (or a lot) like Fight Club or Bad Influence; like the protagonists in those films, Henry finds the confidence and power to start taking control of his life, though instead of doing so through another person (imaginary or real) he does it himself under the protection of anonymity. What’s strange, though, is that he isn’t exactly anonymous; people still seem to recognize him, though they admit something has changed about him, they aren’t exactly sure what. 
And here’s where things get a little confusing. Henry makes some questionable decisions and the plot moves in some weird directions, and it’s pretty difficult to grasp the motivations behind Henry’s actions. Perhaps that is on purpose; after all, Henry is in the middle of losing his mind, maybe we are meant to lose it with him. On the other hand, it kind of makes things difficult to follow, and Henry a little unsympathetic, even though you really want to root for him. 
That is the shame about Bruiser; it starts off interesting, but somewhere in the middle things start deteriorating and I’m not quite sure what Romero is going for. The truth is, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the movie as a whole. I know that I did not hate it, and I did not love it, but did I kind of like it, or kind of dislike it? Part of the reason why I’m not sure, I guess, is that I’m not certain what point it was trying to make, so I can’t even agree or disagree with its sentiment. I respect that it was trying to do something a little different, and applaud Romero for going out on a limb, I just can’t say that it actually worked. I will say the performance by The post-Glenn-Danzig Misfits might be the most confusing thing of the whole movie! 

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