Thursday 24 August 2017

Bushwick (USA 2017: Dir Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott)

Ok, I'll own up. I saw this at home via an on line screener: this is a movie you really need to see at the cinema. Bushwick is an exciting film in its own right but it's also a great and affectionate recreation of 1980s post Escape From New York ripoffs, in the same way achieved by the most recent film in the 'Purge' franchise (Purge: Election Year).

Lucy is a post grad student who is taking her boyfriend Jose to meet her family in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. Disembarking at an unusually deserted subway station the couple encounter a man running down the steps onto the concourse. He is screaming. He's also on fire. As the camera follows Lucy to surface level she's greeted with the sight of open warfare slap bang in the area where she grew up (Jose's toast by the way, caught in an ice cream van explosion). The masked and heavily armoured antagonists could be terrorists, but we later find out that they're actually southern state secessionists who have decoupled themselves from the Union and are waging war against the Democratic north.

Taking refuge in a church, the frightened and seemingly helpless Lucy meets Stupe, an ex marine turned janitor who's a handy guy to be around. From then on the film follows Lucy, Stupe and Lucy's rescued druggy sister Belinda, as they try to try to make their way to the demilitarized zone on the other side of the city, where they can be transported to safety.

Bushwick is an unashamed exploitationer, the like of which generally aren't made any more. It's clearly limited in budget; the crowd scenes are sparse and most of the hardware seems computer generated, but what it lacks in spectacle it make up for in bravado. It's in thrall to the movies it's honouring, with its cast of tough knocks military guys, gang leader mommas and disillusioned priests. In Lucy (admirably played by Brittany Pitch Perfect Snow) we get a heroine who makes the familiar journey from defenseless screamer to gun toting action figure. She even gets one of the film's best lines: examining the remains of her left hand 'wedding ring' finger, shot off in an exchange of gunfire, she asks "How am I going to get married now?" Dave Bautista (Hinx from Spectre and Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy) plays Stupe (not Stupx), a mumbling angry bear of a man with, you know, a heart of gold.

New York under attack in Bushwick
Murnion and Milott, who previously made the lively and inventive comedy horror Cooties back in 2014 (itself a homage to 80s wildlife-gone-bonkers films and a sign that maybe you're not meant to take this film too seriously) handle the action well; the smooth camerawork, which glides around the mayhem and hitches a ride onto passing motorbikes from time to time, tries to convince us it's all shot in one continuous take - it isn't, but points for trying - achieving a kind of 'found footage' realism without the irritating bits and cleverly covering up some of the limitations of the effects work.

The directors have clearly tapped into the political realities of the US in 2017; this is arguably the first Trump inspired action movie (but it almost certainly won't be the last). It's telling that the southern state insurgents didn't take their beef to Washington but to New York, the heart of the liberal left. This movie may not be very bright, but it is a load of fun to watch, albeit with a slight sense of dread. Go see.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review and I concur - it's a throwback to the grim but occasionally bleakly funny exploitation films of the 70's - I called it what Red Dawn would have been if directed by George Romero in 1977. There is comedy in there - Orthodox Jews orchestrating Uzi-armed drive-bys on the invaders, but it's also admirably bleak in a way action movies seldom are these days. It pretty preposterous, but then so's The Warriors, the film it reminded me most of.