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Movie Review: 'Burn it All'

"Anything you can do, I can do Bleeding" Feminist action movie Burn it All is a must see.

“Why are you so angry?”

“Calm down”

“Why are women are so emotional?”

These are just a few of the trigger phrases for women that have persisted through the years. Insecure and clueless members of the male gender have used these phrases to deflect the feelings of women since time immemorial. The new action-suspense thriller, Burn it All uses the tropes of the thriller genre to show a woman who is just over it. She’s over the patriarchy, she’s over being talked down to, and she’s just over the misogyny of men in general.

Burn it All stars Elizabeth Cotter as Alex. When we meet Alex, she’s been on hold for a suicide hotline for nearly an hour. She’s planning to down some pills and end it all, tired of being a victim of the men in her life. Her suicide attempt is interrupted by a phone call from a number recognizable from her hometown. The call is from a hospital, Alex’s mother is dying and the nurse wants to know if Alex wants to come and say goodbye.

Alex’s relationship with her mother is fraught with past trauma. Alex’s mom pushed her to stay in an abusive relationship with Travis (Ryan Postell) which only ended after Travis did unspeakable things to Alex’s younger sister, Jenny (Emily Gately). Alex fled and never looked back, losing touch with both her mother and sister for the past several years. Now that her mother is dying, Alex decides to return home.

What Alex finds on her return home is certainly unexpected. Arriving in town, Alex is informed that her mother has died while she was enroute. Moreover, her mother’s body was already sent to a funeral home and may have already been cremated against her wishes. Cremation however, is a cover story concocted by Travis to cover up what really happened, Alex’s mom’s body has been stolen and her organs are to be harvested.

Alex, an ex-soldier, in seemingly another life, surmises things quickly and though she and her mother were estranged, she’s not about to let some ghouls cash in on her body parts. Thus begins a roaring rampage of revenge, of sorts. Alex is an entirely unwilling protagonist in this story. Because men continuously enact and project their insecurities upon Alex, she simply ends up repeatedly having to fight back, reluctantly murdering men who keep trying to kill her and underestimating her every step of the way based solely on her gender.

There is a borderline grindhouse vibe to Burn it All with the movie not afraid to get bloody and violent. At the same time, the movie never becomes grim or gross. Burn it All is an incredibly watchable movie filled with clever asides and a compelling lead performance by newcomer Elizabeth Cotter. It’s a really simple and easy to overlook thing but Cotter rings authenticity and inherently realistic quality simply in how she says the word ‘Dude.’

I’m being deadly serious, when she calls the latest rando threatening her with a gun ‘Dude,’ it is delivered with the weight of years of frustration with every ‘Dude’ who has inflicted himself upon Alex throughout her life. It’s a little thing but it helps to create an indelible and relatable character. Alex is just so done with the men around her and this extreme plot gives her performance an oddly perfect metaphor for just how over-it she truly is.

A moment of complete awesomeness, and one that shows just how fun and darkly comic Burn it All truly is, comes when Alex is confronted with one of the many men who lead the body snatching scheme. After the man punches Alex in the face she taunts him right back, with blood on her lip, “Anything you can do, I can do bleeding.” It’s a banger of a line, weighted with feminine fury and it’s one of many awesome moments in this terrific movie.

Burn it All is not your typical ‘Girl Power.’ This isn’t just another ‘strong female character,’ Alex is a feminine badass of relatively average strength and the above average will of a woman who has simply had enough. There is no irony, no wink at the audience, the line is delivered with grit and fearsome anger. That it is funny is merely a function of the absurdity of the context. Cotter delivers like this throughout Burn it All. Not all of it works, there are some clunkers, especially among the men trying to keep up with Alex, but there is a great deal more good than bad in Burn it All.

It's tempting to compare Elizabeth Cotter's Alex to other female heroes in action movies or horror films but, for me, the most interesting comparison or perhaps influence, is Bruce Willis. Cotter gives Alex a John McClane like sense of been there done that bravado. She's not overly relaxed in the role, as Willis became as the series dragged on, but like Willis as the night dragged on at Nakatomi Plaza and the absurd game of survival reached a crescendo, Alex isn't overwhelmed, she's just pissed off, trying to survive, and, if she can, beat the bad guys. If she survives you can sense she will probably smoke a cigarette, laugh at the cops trying to get her story of what happened and tell them not now, I'm busy.

Burn it All was written and directed by Brady Hall with wit and grit, a strong sense of the absurd and one hell of a good lead performance from Elizabeth Cotter. I can certainly imagine some audiences rolling their eyes at the repeated moments of Burn it All and the sometimes forced effort of some set up and punch line moments, but, for me, those moments were few and far between.

Burn it All arrives for many online streaming rental platforms on Friday, February 19th. It’s a must see.

movie review
Sean Patrick
Sean Patrick
Read next: The State
Sean Patrick

I have been a film critic for nearly 20 years and worked professionally, as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association for the past 9 years. My favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski because it always feels new.

See all posts by Sean Patrick

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