Monday, April 13, 2015

Who Is That Masked Man?

I’ll say this first: Bruiser, a film written and directed by George Romero, contains no zombies.

And now I’ll say this: Bruiser contains Peter Stormare turning the word ‘salami’ into a verb used to mean sex. Really, what more does one need?

Quick Plot: Henry is a nice guy bound to finish last. His beautiful, awful wife Janine respects her toy poodle far more than her hard-working husband, who in turn toils away at a fashion magazine run by a flamboyant womanizer named Milo Styles.

Guys, let’s talk about Milo Styles. Because he is amazing.

Peter Stormare is one of those character actors that makes most viewers perk up anytime he shows up onscreen. I don’t know if it was Romero or Stormare’s idea, but his Milo is one of the most over the top creations I’ve ever seen on film. 

It’s not just that he sexually harasses every woman (and man) on his staff or that his wardrobe consists of the kind of silk button-ups that can magically turn into v-necks at the sniff of cocaine. Or that he speaks with the kind of typical Peter Stormare accent that sounds like it comes from a small European nation where mass transit is conducted via oxen and the peasants revolt every five years. Stormare gives Milo 120% of his energy, and all of it is aimed at making the man a cruel, misogynist, oversexed, and incredibly enthusiastic hedonist. It is a glorious thing.

Not so glorious for Henry, who discovers that Janine is not only stealing from his investments with the help of his best friend, but is also shagging Milo on the side. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Henry wakes up one morning with his face covered in a sort of plastic Momenshuntz mask, similar to one his pal (and Milo’s put-upon soon-to-be ex-wife) Rosie made for him. 

Left without a face or wife, Henry embarks upon a mission of vengeance so fierce it requires the police work of the only man fit for such a job. 

Tom Atkins is no Milo Styles, but he DOES refer to women as dames, which makes me way happier than it probably should.

To seal the deal, we spend the last twenty minutes at the world’s most ridiculous late ‘90s masquerade rave. Note that the ‘rave’ in question is technically a work party required for all magazine employees and their children, which sort of explains why its dress code was ripped from The Road Warrior, the entertainment is a Misfits performance, Halloween-themed appetizers are passed about, and it all ends in lasers. 

Yup, Bruiser is an odd one, especially coming from the man better known for shuffling corpses and the occasional medieval times reenactment motorcycle gang. This is more in line with the Falling Down-type story of a mild-mannered man finding his inner badass. 

It works well enough. Henry gets us on his side quickly because his targets really are awful human beings. More importantly, we see that he’s not willing to cause collateral damage. He has a code, and it makes Bruiser much more compelling for it. There’s something strangely sweet and positive in the attitude of the film, as if Romero really wanted to tell a sordid, violence-riddled story where the good guy wins. Just with casualties.

And lasers.

High Points
Storemare for president. Storemare for the next Bond villain. Storemare for the next Pretty Little Liar. Storemare for all.

Low Points
I get that the models in the film were supposed to be dumb, but did they also have to be such terrible actresses?

Lessons Learned
You can always gauge the moral compass of a character by how he parks

Bed may be a gift from the gods, but a handicap port-a-potty is the best place to salami around

Everybody needs a bastard in their life

Fun Fact
When you Google image search for ‘Bruiser’ and ‘movie,’ you are indeed reminded that Legally Blonde happened. Because Bruiser!

Bruiser isn’t quite the treatise on male empowerment that it might think it is, but it’s a pretty darn fun little movie. As Henry, Jason Flemyng makes a likable protagonist worth rooting for, Atkins brings his signature charm, and Stormare sashays away chewing scenery as if it were the world’s most delicious Bubblicious gum. The movie is streaming on Netflix and fine for a good 90 minutes of your weekend afternoon.

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