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ENGLAND IS MINE

Producer: Baldwin Li and Orian Williams
Director: Mark Gill
Writer: Mark Gill and William Thacker
Stars: Jack Lowden, Iessica Brown Findlay, Jodie Comer, Simone Kirby, Katherine Pearce, Vivienne Bell, Peter McDonald, Laurie Kynaston, Adam Lawrence and Graeme Hawley
Studio: Cleopatra Entertainment

C

Morrissey might have been an extraordinarily important force in the English music scene of the 1980s and beyond, but in Mark Gill’s film about his earlier formative years in Manchester, he comes across as a pretty obnoxious fellow who sees himself as uniquely brilliant, openly contemptuous of virtually everybody else. In this telling, moreover, Morrissey not just obnoxious but pretty boring. Just call it “Portrait of the Artist as an Insufferable Young Twit.” No wonder this is an “unauthorized” partial biography.

Jack Lowden, the up-and-coming actor who was the downed Spitfire pilot in “Dunkirk” as well as golfer Tommy Morris in the little-seen “Tommy’s Honour,” plays young Steven, first with a mop of long hair and then with a much shorter cut. Though the hairdo changes, however, he remains the same morose, taciturn guy over the entire six-period (1976-82) covered by the script that Gill has concocted with William Thacker.

Morrissey is introduced as a shy seventeen-year old trapped in a stifling middle-class family that will soon collapse when his father (Peter McDonald) abandons the house. He spends most of his time scribbling lyrics in his notebook and writing savage critiques of bands he encounters in Manchester venues that he sends off to the papers while longing to get into the music scene himself. His only friend, it seems, is Anji Hardie (Katherine Pearce), but her advice that he get over himself and act rather than simply simmer finally drives them apart.

Fortunately he meets Linder Sterling (Jessica Brown Findlay), an edgy artist who’s no less certain of her superiority than he is. They hit it off and soon become a couple, and through her he’ll meet Billy Duffy (Adam Lawrence), with whom he founds The Nosebleeds and finds some success. Both, however, will soon leave for greener pastures; Billy’s departure is especially hurtful, since scouts have picked him for advancement while ignoring Steven.

Meanwhile Morrissey’s gig in a conventional desk job at Inland Revenue is like purgatory, especially since his boss (Graeme Hawley) is a sputtering buffoon who might have stepped out of a Boulting brothers comedy from the fifties. He also puts off the advances of co-worker Christine (Jodie Comer), preferring to suffer alone. Eventually he’s fired—something you might well think should have happened much sooner—and winds up working in a hospital, where he encounters Anji as a patient, dying of cancer. But she expires before he can summon the courage to reconcile with her, and only his mother Elizabeth (Simone Kirby) is there to help him over the rough patch.

Finally fate intervenes when Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston) shows up at Steven’s doorstep and inquires whether he’d like to join him in starting a band. The Smiths are born! Cue final credits.

“England Is Mine” has the feeling of a long, turgid prologue to a movie we never get to see. One can understand why Gill made it the way he did—the rights to use The Smiths’ catalogue were closed to him, and he got no encouragement from Morrissey—but it’s more difficult to comprehend why he made it at all, at least in such a lugubrious, understated style. It’s the same sort of approach that suited his Oscar-nominated short “The Voorman Problem,” but dissipates any tautness or energy when dragged out to feature length. Lowden does what he can with the Morrissey presented by the script, but apart from a scene toward the close in which he destroys his room and the few bits in which he’s shown on stage with The Nosebleeds, he hasn’t much opportunity to do anything but sulk.

The rest of the cast handle their duties responsibly, though Hawley is encouraged to go overboard as Steven’s pompously bellowing boss, and the technical side of the picture is fine, if unimaginative, for a low-budget effort: Helen Watson’s production design and the costumes by Yvonne Duckett and Oliver Garcia have solid period feel, and Nic Knowland’s camerawork is professional if unexceptional. But fatally for a film about a musical icon, Adam Biskupski’s editing lacks rhythm, though in this he was probably following Gill’s wishes.

Among films about recent music legends, whether documentaries or semi-fictionalized accounts, “England Is Mine” does not rank high, however influential its subject has been.

BUSHWICK

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

C

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.