At a rally in the fall of 2009, Governor Rick Perry punched a sleeping tiger when he demanded Texas secede from America. Perry later reneged on his separatist war cry, but his Texit rhetoric has ricocheted onto the screen. Turning a ‘what if?’ fantasy into a ‘what the fuck?’ thriller, Bushwick could well be the first all-out action movie directly inspired by a political speech.
Plays like an unapologetic B movie packed with absurd flourishes.
Exactly why a Texan army lay waste to New York is a spoiler minefield we’d rather not dance through, but it’s safe to say Bushwick hits the ground screaming. Boyfriend blown to smithereens in the opening minutes, we follow Brittany Snow’s shell-shocked student Lucy as she emerges from the L-train and into a battlefield. All she wants to do is get back home — but home isn’t there anymore. The streets are sprayed with corpses, the skies chunter with assault copters and round every corner lies a black-clad death squad. Ducking past bullets and flaming ice-cream vans, Lucy winds up in a basement belonging to Dave Bautista’s former army medic, who tucks her under his armpit and boulders through the chaos like a human tank.
Crushing its duo between looters, street-gangs and Texan guerrillas, Bushwick has such a blistering sense of tribal anarchy it’s already been dubbed Escape From New York meets The Purge, but the stylistic motor is very clearly Children Of Men: directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott seize events on swerving handheld cameras in a surge of single takes, edited to resemble one continuous tracking shot. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot where the cuts join, but the technique is astonishingly effective — the action gushes and clatters as if captured by a combat photographer in an imaginary war-zone.
Given its provocative ethnic-cleansing scenario, this could easily have turned out a grave, hard-eyed political tub-thumper — what’s refreshing about Bushwick is that it plays like an unapologetic B movie packed with absurd flourishes, be it Uzi-toting Orthodox Jews or Angelic Zambrana’s rescued pot-head, so zonked on a bong in her apartment she thinks the invasion is her upstairs neighbours playing Call Of Duty at full volume. In fact, there are licks of black laughter throughout — staring down in disbelief at her ring finger spatchcocked by a stray bullet, Lucy’s first reaction is, “What am I going to do when I get married?”
Granted, some fluffy CGI exposes its budget, and Snow rides an abrupt character arc that sees her transform from scatterbrain to urban warrior, but this is another convincing vehicle for Dave Bautista. Built like a grizzly bear, his physical presence speaks for itself, but the guy really can act, fleshing out a potentially one-note, Kevlar-coated action hero into a relatable, vulnerable survivor who eventually unloads a truly harrowing back-story.
As for Murnion and Milott, this is a major step up from their wonky zomcom Cooties, which thrashed around like ‘The Crazies Goes To Summer Camp’. With the raw, raucous Bushwick, they seem to have found their voice courtesy of indie outfit XYZ Films, who, after 6 Days and The Raid movies, are rapidly becoming the thriller Blumhouse.