25th Aug2017

‘Bushwick’ Review

by Guest

Review by Matthew Turner

Stars: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Alex Breaux, Arturo Castro | Written by Nick Damici, Graham Reznick | Directed by Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott

bushwick-uk-blu-cover

Directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott (Cooties), this pacey U.S. invasion thriller picks up points for its premise, performances and photography, but the script passes up the chance for some political commentary.

The film’s extremely strong opening has college student Lucy (Brittany Snow) getting off the subway in Bushwick, New York and suddenly finding herself in the middle of a war zone, with armed militia on the streets. Dodging the hails of gunfire, Lucy is rescued by hulking ex-Marine Stupe (Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Dave Bautista), who agrees to help her make it to her grandmother’s house, a few blocks away. However, they soon discover that the situation is worse than they thought and are forced to fight their way to a government evacuation point.

The basic set-up for Bushwick initially recalls the 2012 revamp of cheesy ’80s actioner Red Dawn, except the enemy turns out to be not an invading foreign power, but domestic secessionists (Texas and other southern states), intent on forcing Congress to accede to their demands. However, despite tapping that unexpectedly topical vein of political unease, the script fails to do anything interesting with the idea and instead concentrates all its attention on the running and shooting.

As far as the action goes, Murnion and Milott maintain a suitably pulse-pounding pace throughout, aided by the decision to shoot several scenes in lengthy, single takes. However, while the handheld camerawork adds to the general sense of urgency and breathlessness, the gimmick ultimately becomes distracting, partly because the joins are too obvious between the shots (shattering the illusion of one continuous take and making the whole thing look a bit slap-dash), and partly because the filmmakers seem to lose interest in the conceit and resort back to standard cuts at random points.

The performances, at least, are solid enough. Bautista is compelling as the softly spoken bruiser, whose outer toughness masks a touching emotional backstory, and he sparks likeable chemistry with Snow that refreshingly resists any hint of romance. Snow, in turn, does a convincing job of transitioning Lucy from a panicky student into someone who’s prepared to take charge and help her community, though she’s less successful when it comes to selling her emotional reactions to the various losses she suffers along the way.

In addition, there’s strong support from Myra Lucretia Taylor as Ma, a cool-headed local matriarch who brokers a deal with Stupe and Lucy, while Angelic Zambrana injects a welcome comic note as Lucy’s stoner sister Belinda, who’s been too out of it to notice there’s a war on (she thinks her neighbours have been blasting Call of Duty all afternoon).

On top of that, Murnion and Milott deserve credit for pulling off the film on what was presumably a very low budget (the single camera perspective does at least allow for the majority of the battle scenes to take place off camera, with the sound design doing much of the heavy lifting), as well as sticking to their guns with a surprisingly bleak tone – it’s clear at one point that the film actively avoids going in a more conventional direction and it’s all the better for it.

Similarly, the directors orchestrate a handful of great sequences, including a genuinely terrifying opening (especially if you’re a fan of Broad City) and the time-honoured help-me-cauterise-this-wound scene, the first of a handful of effective bonding moments between the two leads.

Despite its flaws, Bushwick remains an entertaining and pacily directed B movie, anchored by likeable performances from Bautista and Snow – it’s just a shame that the script isn’t quite up to the task of giving the promising set-up a bit of political bite.

*** 3/5

Bushwick is in limited release scross the UK now. The film comes to Digital HD on August 28th, with a DVD and Blu-ray release following on October 23rd.

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