Directed by: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Written by: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Cast: Angelic Zambrana, Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor
As political tensions in the United States increasingly grow, and the feeling of a looming Civil War seem to come up every week, BUSHWICK, a violent, action thriller, gives a dark satirical glimpse of a potential distant future.
BUSHWICK takes place in New York City, specifically, the neighborhood of Bushwick, where we see a young couple exiting the subway and immediately getting caught in the midst of a full blown war, fought right on the streets of Brooklyn. Residents are being picked off left and right by a militarized force dressed in black. Our heroes, which eventually includes an ex-medic from the marines, soon find out that said uprising is the handiwork of a small, but organized, militia, made up of a bunch of secessionists plotting on taking over the city… only they didn’t plan on New Yorkers putting up a fight! Can this small group escape through the madness and get pass both the armed militia and the local gangs, and get to safety on the other side?
BUSHWICK is a rollercoaster ride of action and thrills with some really clever camerawork. Shot with an almost cinema verite style, BUSHWICK feels like it was filmed in one giant take. It expertly uses very few noticeable cuts, and on the whole is full of seamless edits. The cinematography, gunfight choreography, and planning in general, are very well done. The scope of this film, actually shot in Brooklyn, is massive! Scenes start off indoors, then go through stairwells, and eventually continues along outside, all while keeping the intensity and the action bumping.
On that note of bumping, the soundtrack is spectacular. The awesome sound design really conveys the feel of an urban-set war. You’ll hear bullets and helicopters whizzing by. You’ll hear the confusion and the panic. You’ll hear it all, and you will definitely forget this isn’t a big budget production.
The other part of the soundtrack, the score, is provided by hip hop legend, Aesop Rock. While the music is not constantly present, you still feel it throughout. It’s such a crucial part of setting the tone of this film. Tense as hell and very Brooklyn. You’ll have the melodies in your head for a long while after you leave the theatre. It’s got this great old school feel and it really amps up that intensity. Probably some of the most memorable main themes in a long time.
BUSHWICK is indeed a very intense flick, from the first few moments to the very last. And it’s not a very long film either, so that helps with sense of urgency and the fact that we’re witnessing something going on in relatively real time. It gives it that frantic energy. It’s a giant ball of stress that just keeps building until it eventually explodes and you’re not quite sure what’ll happen next or what you just witnessed.
Luckily, there are some funny moments to release the tension, thanks to the amazing cast, specifically an amusing interaction with a gang members’ mother (Myra Lucretia Taylor), but make no mistake, this film definitely delivers more tense and seat-gripping moments than anything else.
Again, the cast is great, and Dave Bautista (DRAX!) is an absolute delight and probably the standout in this film. He clearly puts his all in every role he’s cast, and this film is no exception. This guy is definitely not a one-trick pony and clearly has range in his acting. I remember saying that last year during his villainous take in that KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE reboot, and that continues with this film and is all the more so evident. Every character he plays is widely different from the last, to the point where I’m really looking forward to what he does later this year in BLADE RUNNER: 2049, but I digress…
In BUSHWICK, Bautista absolutely destroys as Stupe, the haunted marine vet, who’s just trying to make way to Hoboken, yet reluctantly agrees to helps Lucy (Brittany Snow) to safety. Scenes where he’s taking out the aggressors are filmed with such intensity that you feel like you’re right there with him. When he goes into his backstory, you really see the depths of his emotions and what drives him.
Britanny Snow is also great and very believable as someone who has to quickly learn to survive under pressure. She takes charge many times and has to think quick and figure out her next move. She goes through a lot in this film and you really feel for her character. Also worthy of note is Angelic Zambrana, who hilariously plays Lucy’s pothead sister, Belinda. She supplies some much needed comic relief, yet also adds to high stakes by giving Lucy an added reason to get to safety– it’s not just herself that needs safety, it’s her family.
At times this film feels like a mix of THE WARRIORS and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, it’s got that throwback vibe of films that involve trekking through the city and being overwhelmed by utter chaos. Yet it’s still very modern and timely, what with the villains being the lunatic fringe of people trying to “take back” their country. Almost too on point, but that really helps drive this home. The whole believability of something like this actually happening is not as farfetched these days.
If you want to see some action packed social commentary with a satirical bite, with some great technical achievements in filming, and some solid character work, give BUSHWICK a try. It’s very bleak, and not quite the feel good hit of the year, but it’s definitely entertaining cinema in this current messed up political time. The Fantasia Festival crowd ate it up, and you could totally feel the tension throughout. There was an ominous feeling leaving that theatre… is this a horrifying look at a worst case scenario… a what could be? Or just a teaser of the next few months to come?
BUSHWICK will open in select cities on August 25th and head to Video and VOD in October.