Bushwick feels like it’s trying to be a curious combination of The Purge: Anarchy and Red Dawn, with a healthy dollop of the American Civil War 2.0 thrown in for good measure as the film follows Lucy, (Brittany Snow) a 20 year old student who has returned to her home neighbourhood of Bushwick with her boyfriend, only to discover masked men shooting everyone in sight and explosions happening in all directions. Before long she meets up with Stupe,(Dave Bautista) an ex-marine and army medic turned high-school janitor with some survivalist tendencies. In an almost predictable manner, the two end up working together in an attempt to find Lucy’s family and escape.
The plot is fairly sub-standard, and feels as ifit was only there to allow the action sequences to happen. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, it leaves all the characters appearingwoefully under-developed and forced to recite some truly dire lines of stilted dialogue. What allows the film to rise from being terrible to moderately entertaining is the filming of scenes in one long, continuous take with hidden cuts in a style similar to Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) whichlends the film a passing likeness to Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, albeit with a much more tedious story which finds you wanting the film to end about 15 minutes sooner than it actually does.
It is a shame that the script is poor, as both Snow and Bautista are good actors in their own right, but they are held back bylack of character development within the film, at least until a brief interlude between violence in the last 15-20 minutes of the story. Bautista’s character is very similar to several of his other roles, and there isn’t much needed for his backstory to understand his character, but Snow is evidently trying to push herself into different genres after the Pitch Perfect series, yet can’t quite get there due to a lack of interesting characterisation. This missing characterisationleads to the climax of the film, where the overall payoff expects you to actively care about the protagonists, but fails to pull this off in any meaningful capacity.
Possibly the greatest shame of the film is its treatment of People of Colour. Despite the entire story being set within New York (a city with a very diverse population) the two protagonists are white, yet the number of characters from other ethnicities with speaking roles islow, with many of the black characters seemingly relegated to rapists or gang members. This is particularly jarring as it is eventually stated that one of the reasons the invaders are attacking is to promote a more “racially pure” collection of Southern States and one would assume that showing an ethnically diverse group of people working together would allow for a much stronger message than just two caucasians attempting to gain their freedom (to say nothing of the part where it turns out that a predominantly black occupied apartment block can do nothing until the white protagonists show up.) The only remotely positive claim you could make (and this is if you were clutching at straws) is that these choices help to highlight the rift in diversity that often appears within films.
Another metaphor that is implied is the care of our armed forces once they have returned from active duty. There are a few scenes where it is shown that Bautista’s character has seen some horrors whilst he was on duty in Iraq, yet the story once again fails to give enough detail to do more than leave you mildly intrigued. You begin to feel that the director had too many ideas and not enough of a budget to bring them to life so shoved them all into this 90 minute film in the hopes that it would be enough.
Overall, Bushwick is not a bad film, but its well choreographed action sequences don’t make up for a weak script. One can’t help but feel that the story would have held up better if they had focussed more on the message the film was trying to portray instead of getting sidetracked by gunfights and explosions.
Bushwick is out in select cinemas August 25th and on VOD August 28th!