Producer: Adam Folk, Nate Bolotin and Joseph Mensch
Director: Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott
Writer: Nick Damici and Graham Reznick
Stars: Bittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Alex Breaux, Christian Navarro, Jeff Lima, Patrick M. Walsh, Justin L. Wilson and Arturo Castro
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
Though in the era of Trump Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott’s exploitative action flick is rather behind the political curve (especially after Charlottesville)—it must have been conceived during the Obama years, and perhaps in expectation of a Hillary presidency to follow—“Bushwick” will probably still please fans looking for something along the lines of the “Purge” franchise. It’s about as silly as “Red Dawn”—either version—working only on the low level of a shoot-‘em-up video game, particularly since it’s photographed by cinematographer Lyle Vincent as a succession of long tracking shots stitched together to make it seem like one long chase.
The movie begins with Lucy (Brittany Snow) and her boyfriend arriving at a deserted subway stop in Brooklyn on their way to visit her grandmother. It quickly becomes apparent that the Bushwick neighborhood is under some sort of violent military siege, especially after the poor boyfriend gets incinerated as he steps out onto the street.
Poor Lucy makes a run for it and finds her way into a basement that proves to be the living quarters of a well-muscled janitor with the unfortunate name of Stupe (ex-pro wrestler Dave Bautista, who’s hit it big as Drax in “Guardians of the Galaxy”). He takes care of two street thugs who have followed Lucy and demand favors she’s unwilling to give, and reluctantly agrees to help her get to grandma’s place.
The rest of the picture consists of the duo going block by block through Bushwick, encountering black-uniformed killers along the way as well as looters and self-styled resistance fighters—and plenty of corpses. The identity and motive of the invaders are revealed about halfway through when Stupe captures one of them (Alex Breaux), who proves less than courageous when relieved of his automatic weapon, and that sends the pair—and others, including Lucy’s wild sister (Angelic Zambrana), many armed with privately-owned (if illegal) firearms—on a quest to drive the interlopers out.
The script of “Bushwick”—co-written by Nick Damici, who did much better work with “Cold in July,” which was, however, based on a novel—is absurd on virtually all levels, most particularly in terms of the rationale behind the invasion (which would have been much more plausible before Trump, though hardly credible even then). But while the writing gets by in the short-burst action moments, it degenerates in the more introspective scenes in which Lucy and Stupe do some soul-searching. Fans will probably respond to these the way that kids used to when westerns were interrupted by yucky romantic bits, but perhaps Bautista—who served as one of the executive producers—wanted to prove he could stretch as an actor. He’s okay overall, but seems more comfortable when Stupe has to remove a piece of shrapnel from his leg and have Lucy cauterize the wound; he grimaces well, a leftover perhaps from his days as a grappler. Snow is acceptable as the young woman who initially doesn’t know how to shoot a gun but doesn’t need much time to be able to pick off enemies with a single bullet.
Production-wise, “Bushwick” is superior to made-for-video features, but not by much. In addition to Vincent’s cinematography, one can point to Aesop Rock’s propulsive score as an integral element in keeping the adrenaline flowing. And to be fair, the movie does toss in a surprise or two in the last act.
Ultimately, though, “Bushwick” is just a slickly made but brainless exercise in violence—again, like most video games.