I KNOW this may not seem important to many people, but I am going to start this review with a warning. Despite being named second in the opening credits, and despite having her name on the cover of the movie, Rachel Nichols is not in this movie for long. Five minutes. Maybe ten. That's it. Nichols may not be the biggest star on the planet, but I like her. A lot. I'll seek out anything that she takes part in. Which made my viewing of Raze slightly disappointing. I was expecting her to have a central, or at least central supporting, role. Such is life, however, and I had to just suck it up and view the movie as it was intended, with very little Rachel Nichols included. But I'm starting this review with this whole paragraph so that others might avoid such disappointment.
And now to the movie itself. A bunch of women (including Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, Rebecca Marshall, and Bailey Anne Borders) are held prisoner, paired off and forced to fight one another to the death. If they refuse to fight then their loved ones will be harmed. It's a standard exploitation movie set-up, basically, and there's even a sadistic guard (Bruce Thomas), some out-of-touch senior management (Doug Jones and Sherilyn Fenn), and some lesbian shower scenes. I'll admit it, that last part was a lie.
Despite the tame nature of so many moments, this is a WIP movie that should please fans of that particular subgenre. What it lacks in gratuitous nudity and sleaze, it more than makes up for in the scenes that show some excessive violence. When the fights take place there's no shortage of shots that show faces being mashed and broken as opponents messily scramble to stay alive.
Bell isn't bad as the nominal lead, and she's certainly someone a bit more recognisable compared to many of the other inmates (although the inclusion of Thoms makes for a nice mini-Death Proof reunion, with Rosario Dawson also making the briefest of cameos), but she struggles to carry the whole movie on her strong shoulders. Thankfully, I was easily pleased by the scenes featuring Fenn and Jones, and Thomas was solid as the nasty guard.
Director Josh C. Waller also helped to come up with the story, alongside two (?) other people, including screenwriter Robert Beaucage. It's as thin and ridiculous as a sheet of sudoku toilet paper, which isn't a problem while it rattles along at a decent pace, providing entertaining nastiness for viewers who know what they're letting themselves in for. The characters may not have much depth, but at least a few stand out from the group (with Rebecca Marshall's nutty turn being a highlight).
Ultimately forgettable, and veering between moments that seem strangely sanitised in between the gorier sequences, Raze is still good enough to give 90 minutes of your time to.