Bruiser & George Romero

Bruiser is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Bruiser (2000) – Rated R

“Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) awakens to a nightmare world in which he has no face, features or identity. Stripped of everything he’s ever known, he sets out on a bloody rampage to destroy the people who’ve betrayed him, including his philandering wife (Nina Garbiras), his belittling boss (Peter Stormare) and his evil best friend (Andrew Tarbet). Fans of horror-punk rockers the Misfits will relish their role in the film’s gritty climax.”

George Romero gets a lot of credit for starting a horror subgenre with Night of the Living Dead and following it up with Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead. True there were clear precursors such as White Zombie (1932), The Last Man on Earth (1964), and Plague of the Zombies (1966) but Romero is certainly the man who popularized zombies.

His non-zombie films are not as well remembered but are fascinating. Knightriders (1981) is about an Arthurian troop of jousting motorcyclists. Martin (1976) is a realistic story about a man who thinks he is a vampire. The Crazies (1973) is about a government engineered virus that causes insanity and led directly to 28 Days Later and a remake.

Bruiser was Romero’s first film in seven years. He directed a video for the band, The Misfits in exchange for their appearance in Bruiser and some music for the film. Romero wrote and directed Bruiser.

Bruiser is a wonderful horror movie about identity, complacency, media and the callousness of society. It is very different. Other than some foreshadowing, it does not even seem like a horror movie until near the half hour mark.

Jason Flemyng, one of my favorite character actors, gets a rare leading role here as Henry Creedlow, a man who literally loses sight of who he is. No one respects him – in part because he does not respect himself. He lets everyone walk all over him – his wife, his boss, his co-workers, his acquaintances, even his dog. He contemplates committing suicide as an easier alternative to taking control of his life.

Peter Stormare does an excellent job of playing his disgusting boss, Milo Styles. A pre-24 Leslie Hope plays one of the few sympathetic characters, Rosemary Newley. Henry’s cheating wife Janine is played by Nina Garbiras. It is nice to see John Carpenter regular Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape from New York) as Detective McCleary.

It is interesting to see a revenge tale retooled as a quest for identity. It has been said that all stories can be boiled down to the simple question, “Who am I?”. This one starts with that question and the answer is captivating.

People Watch: Peter Mensah, listed as ‘skinhead’, would go on to become the messenger who is so memorably killed by King Leonidas in 300 (“This is Sparta!”). Romero’s daughter Tina appears as Cleopatra.

Dead Cert – British Gangsters vs. Vampires

Sporting much the same cast as Devil’s Playground, Dead Cert is also available on instant Netflix.

Dead Cert (2010) – Not rated

“London gangsters meet the immortal undead in this supernatural horror flick. When the gangsters decide to sell their club — the Inferno — the most interested buyers turn out to be vampires eager to return to their ancestral home.”

“Four girls and three dogs. Dogs for &*$%’s sake. Who kills dogs?”

“Boy you can tell she ain’t had three kids.”

First I do have to warn you that the English accents are quite thick in this movie and the script features quite a bit of slang a la Snatch. The script is quite witty with a nice dry British sense of humor.

Jason Flemyng is first-billed on Netflix but sadly he just puts in a cameo. Craig Fairbrass is the star here as he was in Devil’s Playground. Rejoining him from Devil’s Playground are Danny Dyer, Lisa McAllister, and Mo Idriss.

Other prominent British character actors also litter the cast. Billy Murray (Don Beech from The Bill) is the chief villain Dante Livenko. Steven Berkoff (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Dexter Fletcher (Hotel Babylon), and Andrew Tiernan (Prisoners Wives) round out the cast of British heavies.

Sadly while the acting is fine, the action is unconvincing. It isn’t that it is bad, just not very good – pedestrian. The special effects are kept to a minimum (until the third act) which is just as well since they are a bit low-rent. Bizarrely for a movie that takes place mainly in a strip club, there is no skin.

Another issue are the odd inconsistencies. You have differences in the way the vampires look (multiple vendors for teeth?). You have vampires munching on prop arms and legs, although in all other ways they are played as straight vampires.

It’s unfortunate that I can’t recommend this. The crime aspects in the first act are well handled. The story, acting and script are good but the action and special effects are poor enough to pull you out of the movie. What a waste of a good cast.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – The Expendables week

In tribute to the cast Sylvester Stallone has lined up for his upcoming movie, this is The Expendables week. Today our expendable is Jason Statham. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language (the F bomb is dropped 125 times), sexuality and drug content.

“I have just spent 120 quid on me hair. If you think I am putting a stocking over me head you are very much mistaken.”

“Looking to make a bundle in a high-stakes poker game, a quartet of shiftless lads from East End of London instead finds themselves up to their eyeballs in debt to underworld porn king “Hatchet” Harry when the game turns out to be rigged. With only a week to repay Harry, the frantic foursome hits upon the notion of robbing a gang of reefer thieves. Nick Moran, Jason Flemyng and Jason Statham star in director Guy Ritchies stylish big-screen debut.”

Guy Ritchie knocks it out of the park in his feature film debut as writer and director.

As the writer, Ritchie not only tells a great story (actually several stories) of the criminal underground with a large cast of colorful characters but everything fits perfectly together by the end of the film.

As the director, Ritchie gets fabulous performances from all of the actors. Finally as the casting director, Ritchie picked the perfect cast.

Our young protagonists (one cannot really call them heroes) are Tom (Jason Flemyng – last seen as Calibos in Clash of the Titans), Bacon (Jason “Transporter” Statham in his first film), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), and Eddy (Nick Moran).

While all of them do a great job, the best characters are the ones on the periphery. Lenny McLean is known as Barry the Baptist because he holds his victims under the water. Sadly Lenny passed away from cancer before the film premiered. P.H. Moriarty plays Hatchet Harry whose method of punishing one transgressor had me in stitches.

A revelation are the father and son enforcer team of Big Chris (Vinnie “Juggernaut” Jones in his film debut) and Little Chris (Peter McNicholl). They make collecting debts seem fun. If you think that Vinnie looks like a real tough guy, be aware that his first day of filming occurred right after he had been released from jail for beating up his neighbor.

Musician extraordinaire Sting shows up briefly as JD. Trudie Styler was an investor in the film and is the wife of Sting.

The music near the climax as the threads start coming together is simply brilliant.

This is a great and tricky caper film. I heartily recommend it with one drawback. The accents are thick and there is a lot of slang used in the film so you will need to pay attention.

There is one scene where the slang is laid on so thick that Ritchie puts subtitles on. This scene is not only hilarious but also explains a head-scratching moment that occurs earlier in the film.

Ritchie went on to make Snatch (excellent) and married Madonna. He then put her in Swept Away which was awful. Most recently he directed the blockbuster Sherlock Holmes and has been tapped to make the sequel as well as a remake of Excalibur.

Sadly this is the only Jason Statham film currently available on instant Netflix.

People Watch: Danny John-Jules plays Barfly Jack here but is more widely known as Cat on the BBC series Red Dwarf (also available on instant Netflix)