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Originally published Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 3:07 PM

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‘Raze’: brutal to watch

A half-star movie review of “Raze,” a stomach-turning picture in which abducted women are forced to fight barehanded to the death for the edification of a sadistic rich couple and their jaded friends.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review .5 stars

‘Raze,’ with Zoë Bell, Rachel Nichols, Doug Jones, Sherilyn Fenn, Rebecca Marshall. Directed by Josh Waller, from a screenplay by Robert Beaucage. 87 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains Intense violence). Grand Illusion.

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The reviewer’s credo: We watch stuff so that you don’t have to.

This credo applies to “Raze.”

The stuff on view here is vicious woman-on-woman violence. Women battering one another to death, to be precise.

Watch as they throttle one another. And stomp and kick and eye gouge. And punch. And punch. And punch some more.

Until knuckles are bloody. Faces, too.

Is that all there is?

Basically, yeah: nearly 90 minutes of women getting their faces pounded to hamburger.

The poundings are packaged in a thin excuse for a plot in which the victims are abducted by a sadistic rich couple (played by Doug Jones and Sherilyn Fenn), who imprison them and force them to fight, barehanded, one-on-one, to the death. If they refuse, they’re told their loved ones will be killed by the mystery couple’s thuggish minions.

The script suggests this is all somehow empowering, that women can be fierce warriors if that’s what it takes to save those they love. The fact that “Raze’s” characters are undergoing psychological torture to bring forth that aspect of themselves drowns that empowerment message in pools of blood.

With the exception of the lead character, Sabrina, played by a dour Zoë Bell (also listed as one of the producers), the characters have names but are essentially anonymous. The only fighter other than Sabrina to stand out is a taunting sadist (Rebecca Marshall). There’s nothing to that character beyond that single characteristic. And there’s nothing to the other characters at all.

The women are forced to fight in a dirt-floored pit with the bouts broadcast on closed circuit to an audience of well-dressed, obviously wealthy people. Someone remarks that the fighters are “freshly reaped.” That suggests the filmmakers saw parallels between their movie and “The Hunger Games,” with the fights staged for the edification of the upper classes. Furthering the parallel is the fact that some of the women become friends before they’re forced to try to kill each other.

But the performances and plotting are so impoverished that the picture deserves to be called “The From Hunger Games,” and then promptly forgotten.

Soren Andersen:

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