Plot: Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) has a good job, a beautiful girlfriend, and a seemingly agreeable lifestyle, but beneath the surface, he feels crushed under the weight of those around him. He tries to be a nice guy, a model employee, and a good boyfriend, but he just seems to get walked over, taken advantage of, and used by those he tries to be there for. His boss treats him like garbage, his accountant steals from him, and his girlfriend cheats on him, but he feels powerless to do much about it, too meek to call them out on their transgressions. But inside, he has violent fantasies and when a chance encounter opens the door to make those fantasies real, Henry decides to walk through and change his fate. A friend asks to make a plaster cast of his face, as she collects masks and after Henry’s session is done, he doesn’t think much about it, until he wakes up and his face is gone. He now has the white, featureless appearance of a blank mask, giving Henry the chance to be bold and do things he never dreamed possible…
Entertainment Value: As this was written and directed by George A. Romero, it is easy to see why it was marketed as a horror movie, but in truth Bruiser is more of a tense thriller with social bite. I do think the social critiques are heavy handed, but the movie itself is fun to watch and has competent production values. The mask is quite eerie, so even though this isn’t horror in the traditional sense, it does have an unsettling vibe that adds to the tension. As this is about an ordinary guy fed up with his lot, Bruiser needs an everyman in the lead and Jason Flemyng nails that role. His performance is solid and he brings a sympathetic presence to the character, so even though he’s a pushover, it is still easy to root for him. His transition from doormat to vengeance seeker is handled well also, a really good effort here. But he is often outshined by Peter Stormare, who dials up his performance to insane levels and really goes over the top. But his bravado and lack of social skills makes him an effective villain and if nothing else, his wild antics are a lot of fun to watch. Tom Atkins, Leslie Hope, and Nina Garbiras also turn in solid efforts, so the cast here is more than capable. If you’re after Romero’s signature horror, you won’t find that here, but Bruiser is still a well made thriller.
The movie has several topless scenes, which are brief, but still a welcome inclusion, including one Lady Godiva inspired sequence. The movie has some bursts of violence, including some bloodshed, but nothing too graphic or intense. A few splashes here and there, with most of the violence either off screen or not shown in detail. While there’s not much blood, I do love the mask and it is so creepy. I also liked how Henry would decorate the mask in various ways, quite a cool element to explore. The concept of anonymity and being able to act outside yourself is a core part of Bruiser, one that is well served by Henry’s previously hapless life. The dialogue is mostly straightforward, but Stormare is a goldmine of outrageous comments. He is brash and over the top, with all kinds of swagger, braggadocio, and ridiculous lines. There’s some other lines here and there that stand out, but Stormare takes the cake. As for craziness, the premise and Stormare’s antics earn some points, but overall this one doesn’t color too much out of the lines.
Overall Insanity: 2/10