Bruiser (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

We pretty much agreed that it's a movie that we tried to like because of its excellent premise, but could never really warm to because of characterization problems and a predictable slasher-style denouement ....

Scoop's comments in white, written in 2000:

I don't know about you guys, but I didn't even know that George A. Romero was still making films. He sure doesn't make many. Prior to Bruiser, he hadn't made one in seven years, and from 1989 to 1999, he directed exactly one feature, 1993's The Dark Half. 

Despite the lukewarm reception for that particular film, the Carnegie-Mellon graduate is probably considered one of the most successful completely independent directors of all time, and is revered by young filmmakers for his work outside the system. Even after several successful films which made him marketable in Hollywood, he continued to make the movies that he wanted to make, mostly in and around the Pittsburgh area. His "Night of the Living Dead" and "Knightriders" are often listed when people pick the Top 10 Independent American films. 


  • Nina Garbiras, as Henry's wife,  was topless in two scenes
  • Marie Cruz, as a supermodel, was topless in a hot tub scene
  • Kiran Friesan was topless at a masquerade, as Lady Godiva
  • Jason Flemyng's penis was briefly visible in the shower
 Bruiser is an OK film, but not a good one, and it went straight to video despite Romero's name and a $5 million budget. It has a strong first half, but a tired resolution. Looking back on it as a complete entity, it pretty much seems like a long episode of The Twilight Zone, since it combines straight horror with psychological horror and wraps it in an allegorical, moralistic package with social commentary.

Henry Creedlow has always been a faceless non-entity. He's not just a nobody like most of us, but he's also a complete wimp. He's the ultimate "mark". His abusive boss makes fun of him to his face, in front of his co-workers. His wife is having an affair with that very same slimebag boss. His best childhood friend is his investment consultant who and is ripping him off for tens of thousands of dollars. Henry fantasizes about striking back at people who mistreat him, but he never does.

As if all that weren't bad enough, he wakes up one day without a face. He goes from being a figuratively faceless non-entity to a literally faceless one. Where his face used to be, there is a nearly featureless porcelain mask which can't be removed. As his initial terror diminishes, he realizes that he has allowed all the people in his life to steal his manhood, and even his very identity. The only way to get his face back, he reasons, is to make himself a whole person again.

So far, excellent!

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length commentary by Romero

  • Music video

Unfortunately, the brilliant part of the script broke down right there. It was turning into a really arty little psychological horror film until he determined how he would regain his identity. Sigh! He decided to become a mass murderer, and to get permanent revenge on the people who hurt him. So the nifty little horror film became a regular old formula slasher film in the second half, with Henry killing and a couple of detectives detecting. At this point it turned into Jim Carrey's mask movie, minus the humor.

There wasn't even a lot of detecting to do, since Henry called into radio talk shows and confessed the details of his crimes.

Pity Romero couldn't figure out a more creative way for the faceless man to get his face back. 

Tuna's comments in yellow, written in 2005:

Bruiser is a George Romero film funded by French Canal + and made in Ontario on a very small budget. It is meant as a commentary on the dehumanizing effects of industry on the common man. Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng) has a real bad day. He lives in an unfinished house, and his breakfast is disrupted by an obnoxious poodle, and a wife who won't get up. She clearly has little or no use for him. His best friend and financial planner picks him up on the way to the train station, and shows him his portfolio, which is not doing as well as he expected. His boss at Bruiser Magazine, Milo (Peter Stormare), makes an ass out of him at a morning meeting. He is turned down for a Gold Card because he is undercapitalized.

Then, at a BBQ at Milo's mansion, Milo's estranged wife makes a mask of his face, and tells him to decorate it. He then observes his wife giving Milo a hand job out in the open. She dumps him at home and leaves. In the morning, he discovers that the cleaning woman has been stealing from them, and hits her. She is dead on the floor, and he finds that his face is a blank mask he can't remove. For the rest of the film, he gets even with those who ruined his life, and the mask slowly turns back into him.

All in all, not a terrible concept.

Unfortunately, I was not entirely impressed with the execution.  Flemyng's performance was clearly hampered by the mask and Stormare was typically way over the top. More important than those facts is the script's inherent empathy problem. Since the masked man would eventually be doing really awful things to those who had wronged him, it was necessary to make everyone else in the film so obviously evil that we could still  empathize with Henry. The net result is a film full of people you hate, except for one with a featureless plastic face.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.9
  • It had a limited theatrical release in France, Canada and Japan, but went straight to vid in the US
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this film is a C, a decent genre picture that had the potential to be excellent, but blew it in the second half and turned into a slasher pic." Tuna says, "All in all, I never warmed up to this film, but it is probably of some interest to fans of Romero's work. C-."

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