UK Release Date: 25th August 2017
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Writer: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Starring: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Angelic Zambrana, Jeff Lima, Paco Lozano, Christian Navarro
Synopsis: A woman and a former Marine find their paths intertwined when a highly proficient military insurgency moves into a Brooklyn neighbourhood and bullets start to fly.
The idea of single-take action sequences is now an established tool in the filmmaking arsenal. New suburban actioner Bushwick takes that to the extreme, with the whole film unfolding in real time, stitched together with very few visible cuts. As well as a vogue visual style, the film also boasts an intriguing political context that has the potential to really resonate in the increasingly tense Trump era. On top of all that, it has Marvel mainstay and former WWE champion Dave Bautista in its leading man role. All of the ingredients are there, but Bushwick never quite comes together.
Lucy (Brittany Snow) emerges from the subway in the eponymous New York City suburb, having arrived to visit her family. She finds herself in the midst of a heavily-armed uprising, with American military forces fighting seemingly well-trained, black-clad combatants. After fleeing part of the militia, Lucy bumps into janitor Stupe (Bautista), who is an ex-Marine and uses his special skills in order to keep them both alive as they move towards the safety of a rendezvous point.
Bushwick is a melange of semi-interesting ideas and visual concepts. Most intriguing is its visual style, which makes good use of its guerrilla, single-take style. The film’s production notes mention long takes in Gravity and Goodfellas as inspirational for the film, but they surprisingly decline to mention the most obvious touchstone – Alfonso Cuarón‘s Children of Men. Like that 2006 thriller, Bushwick‘s long takes keep the focus on the action on the ground, throwing the audience right into the middle of the smoke and gunfire.
Unlike Cuarón’s masterpiece, though, Bushwick lacks the character to support its visual flair. The performances from the talented Bautista and Pitch Perfect star Brittany Snow are solid, but both are grappling with a script that has no idea how to write dialogue and is utterly devoid of nuance. Bautista’s dialogue simply has him repeat the phrase “let’s get the fuck out of here”, while Snow just whines and asks inane questions for almost the entirety of the film. The less said about Angelic Zambrana‘s overblown, wooden turn as the protagonist’s pothead sister, the better.
The lack of nuance is felt most keenly when the nature of the mysterious threat at the centre of Bushwick is revealed. It’s a novel idea and one which isn’t often seen in action movies, but it is mentioned and resolved in a single scene of dialogue and has no impact upon the way the story unfolds. The film squanders a really interesting, politically resonant story and bungles the potentially rich idea of the action being centered around an ethnically and financially diverse area. Screenwriters Nick Damici and Graham Reznick have big ideas, but no idea how to execute them.
As much as the visual style of Bushwick has promise, the execution by directing duo Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion often leaves something to be desired. There’s a whiff of cheapness about the entire project that negates some of the ambition of the shooting style, with some ropey CGI sticking out like a sore thumb. For every moment of Bushwick that has the potential to thrill, there’s another that will have you rolling your eyes.
Pop or Poop?
Despite a buzzy premise, interesting visuals and some big stars in the leading roles, Bushwick is a mess of missed potential and half-ideas. Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow are poorly served by the material and any political context disappears in a noisy cacophony of gunfire, bad visual effects and unimaginative writing.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.