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Review: ‘Raze’

Stuntwoman Zoe Bell Kicks Serious Ass

Zoe Bell stars as a woman forced to fight to the death in

Credit: IFC

Above: Zoe Bell stars as a woman forced to fight to the death in "Raze."

Stuntwoman Zoe Bell (who doubled for Lucy Lawless as Xena and Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill") gets to showcase her skills in "Raze" (having its San Diego premiere Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. at the Digital Gym Cinema).

It must be tough to be Zoe Bell. Hollywood likes its actresses to fit a certain mold and Bell doesn't conform. She's got onscreen charisma and can kick serious ass but there are very few roles that can put those skills to good use. So Bell simply found her own material and produced "Raze," an action film about women forced to fight each other to the death. Doug Jones and Sherilyn Fenn are the creepy duo running the underground fight club. They kidnap women with a knack for fighting (Bell's Sabrina has military training, another women learned self-defense after one too many abusive men, and another just likes to fight), and then force them to fight one another by threatening their loved ones.

Directed by Josh C. Waller, and written by Robert Beaucage and Kenny Gage, "Raze" pulls no punches as it works its way down to a final brutal showdown. The scenario is not new. Most recently Keanu Reeves directed "The Man of Tai Chi" with a very similar fight to the death format. What makes this one different is the way the women choose to meet their fates and the way Bell takes command of the screen. She is simply amazing to watch. When you see her in the first fight you can't imagine how anyone could beat her.

The film calls to mind "Personal Best" (about female athletes) in the sense that it serves up a formula usually reserved for men and gives it a bit of gender-bending. In "Raze," the women make sacrifices for each other and many of them have come to particular skills because of abusive men. So many of them learned to fight not in order to hurt others but in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. So the violence here has a slightly different spin at times.

But don't think that means the film is soft on violence. It's not. It's quite brutal and serious, and Bell gets to show off.

"Raze" (not rated) is a serious female action film. And that's damn refreshing.

Check out the trailer.

"Raze" Trailer

Companion viewing: "The Arena," "Unleashed," "Series 7: The Contender"

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