I’ll start with a warning, just to save you time: how do you feel about essentially watching one long chase sequence, as in a roughly 95-minute chase? If you don’t feel good, you can stop here. Bushwick is the sort of film that is significantly more enjoyable the less you know going into it, but if you like your action brief, effective and painful, then this just might be the film for you.
What works so well about the film is that it starts so suddenly that the audience feel like they’re in the literal shoes of Lucy (Brittany Snow) as she innocently leaves a train station in Bushwick, New York and walks straight into a war zone, hunted by a mysterious military force, decked out in all-black like a more gothic Killzone cosplay, with only the mysterious Stupe (Dave Bautista) for company. In working with the ‘in media res’ propulsive tension building of the script, the directors have chosen to shoot 90% of the film as if one continuous take, and even when it does have a few cuts, there are no narrative leaps, as it tends to be for effect and not to excuse time inconsistencies.
Snow and Dave Bautista put on some of their best work in the lead roles, making purposely thin characters feel real via only this brief snapshot into their lives, they both have a strong sense of urgency to their fight work, and as the only two ‘names’ in the cast, they anchor the film well. As well as the eminently discussion-worthy cinematography, credit must go to Aesop Rock for crafting one of the most tightly wound and memorable action scores in ages, always helping propel the scene but never becoming so overbearing that it distracts from the action.
While the unrelenting pace works to advantage of the action, it does however result in some unsatisfying characterisation, with pretty much no one outside our central two given any shades beyond the basic archetypes they are meant to represent. Equally, it does have the double-edged sword that any time it slows down, it feels like they are just trying to bide time until the next moment with a mid-film exposition dump being well handled for that type of scene but clearly being ‘the plot scene’. For some, it’s also possible they may find the lack of that much in the way of big set-pieces and the ending quite relentlessly downbeat. Though I don’t know if such a thing is possible.
Bushwick is the best action movie of the year not featuring the words ‘John Wick’ in the title. It’s also for reasons that aren’t worth discussing – because spoilers – quite painfully prescient of somewhere America might be heading. It’s got some surprisingly emotional performances, a nice blend of cinematic action choreography with the over-the-shoulder feeling of playing a video game while never feeling less than authentic (especially during a rooftop gunshot wound care scene). Did you stop reading after the first two sentences? If not, I’d say seek out Bushwick, you might just find your new favourite film.
Dir: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Scr: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Cast: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Alex Breaux, Arturo Castro
Prd: Nate Bolotin, Adam Folk, Joseph Mensch
DOP: Lyle Vincent
Music: Aesop Rock
Run time: 94 minutes
Bushwick is out in select cinemas 25th August.