BUSHWICK (2017) is a film that imagines a second American civil war fought in the streets of New York. The South is attempting to secede again, and to increase their bargaining position, they sent militia into Brooklyn to seize hostages and create a base of operations. Only they don’t bargain on the people of New York giving them hell right back with any weapon they can get their hands on, resulting in all-out warfare on the borough’s streets. It’s a supremely improbable scenario, but without it, the movie doesn’t work, so you just gotta run with it. The bad guys are here, and for now, they have the upper hand.
Now to the story. Lucy (Brittany Snow) steps off the train from graduate school hoping to introduce her boyfriend to her grandmother. Instead, she walks out of the subway into a bloodbath. She takes shelter in the basement of an ex-Marine named Stupe (Dave Bautista, who shines in the role of capable veteran who hates war), who agrees to help her get to safety.
That’s pretty much the plot, but I didn’t expect much from this indie thriller. The acting is passable, the actors doing the best they could with a script that was at times a bit hammy and incredibly demanding on Snow, who has to mourn one loved one after another only to soldier on as if she’d never known them. While the movie often had this former New Yorker thinking, “F–k yeah! New Yorkers ain’t gonna take this!”, the ending is pretty dark.
What I liked most is the crazy tension that is sustained through much of the movie. The director relies a lot on very long takes, where the camera follows the action down the street only to be frequently distracted by violent set pieces. Imagine if the battle scenes in CHILDREN OF MEN took up about half a movie, and you get the idea. While the special effects weren’t on par with CHILDREN OF MEN, some of the action is pure adrenaline fuel. I was fascinated by the technique they showed in putting this together in the middle of Brooklyn. Count me in if they ever release a making-of.
BUSHWICK seems to be timed well for the violence and divisions in Trump’s America, and it emotionally touches on that, though otherwise it has no political aspirations, and as such it doesn’t function very well as a cautionary tale of civil war. The film is really a set piece what-if and then produces a tense and scary cinema verite-style portrayal of one man and woman trying to survive it. It doesn’t reach very high beyond what it gives you, but I was okay with that.
Looking at reviews, the film has taken some heat for all sorts of things, but I took it for what it was and enjoyed it quite a bit.