Just because you can make a film seemingly in one take doesn’t mean you should. In fact, the seams of Bushwick are so obvious I hope if it does enjoy a theatrical release, the film’s “cuts” ––often pushing the camera against a wall or into a dark hallway before magically adjusting the aperture — can inspire a drinking game at the Alamo or Nitehawk. Drinking game or not: beware, it’s going to be a sloppy evening.
Directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott the film feels like small screen “content” crafted for a quick sell to Netflix (a hot buyer at Sundance) or SyFy with little effort and budget spent on special effects. Bushwick is amateur hour with special effects right out of a YouTube tutorial on basic tracking in After Effects. Of course its technical shortcomings can be forgiven (and oddly the film’s finale at night is one effective sequence) if the material is engaging. Unfortunately, its MacGuffin feels less and less plausible since the events of November the 8th, but let us not fault the film for its poor timing.
Grad student Lucy (Britney Snow) and boyfriend emerge from the subway to find Bushwick has become the kind of environment our current President believes Chicago to be: a war zone full of gangsters and chaos. Dave Bautista‘s war veteran character of Stupe is in Bushwick and he is Lucy’s only hope after he saves her from a violent gang members that corner her in a basement hell hole, taking advantage of a world gone mad looking for answers. Lucy’s first mission is to get to her grandmother’s house; risking life and limb they find her dead in her apartment.
Bautista’s Stupe is an ex-marine with a heart of gold, first telling Lucy that he’s desperate to get to Hoboken to reunite with his wife and daughter. Their day brings them to the apartment of Lucy’s sister Belinda (Angelic Zambrana) that is soon invaded by a masked soldier that spills the beans at gun-point: the southern states have decided to invade the north in an attempt to speed up congressional approval to secede. Apparently they were pissed Hillary came for their guns or something. Bushwick was chosen as a shoot-to-kill zone, believing that because mayor Bloomberg disarmed the city that the gentrifying hipsters were easy to round up and make an example of. Luckily for those hipsters, not everyone has been priced out of the neighborhood and Lucy makes it a point to remind us all that, despite being a grad school, she’s still Jenny from the Block.
Implausible from frame one, Bushwick is a political allegory that’s jumped the shark, but one has to wonder if it was ever really a great concept to start with. 1998’s The Siege may seem a little timelier in our present reality with a United States president threatening to send the feds into Chicago without further specification. Bushwick unfortunately falls flat with predictable character development and action beats, right down to a pivotal moment: a rare wide-angle shot that spells a certain doom amongst others. Bushwick is a film devoid of surprises with little tension, despite using the neighborhood quite well as Lucy and Stupe traverse a deadly terrain encountering what students of the genre will surely expect at each turn.
Bushwick premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and opens on August 25.