REVIEW: Timely thriller features street-level chaos

Bushwick. Directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Millott. Starring Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow. Rating: 6 (out of 10)

All of the craziness that’s transpired since November south of the border makes B-movie action flick Bushwick both a timely thriller and a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale for people on both sides of the political aisle.

Grad student Lucy (Brittany Snow) is home from college and bringing her boyfriend (Arturo Castro) home to meet the family: she’s headed to grandmother’s house, red coat and all. They exit the train at Bushwick subway station and notice that the subterranean platform is eerily quiet.

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“Must be some sort of a drill.” They shrug off the weirdness until a guy stumbles down the stairs, burning alive.

This is the best part of Bushwick and the likes of 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead: that moment when our hero wakes up or opens a door to see that the whole world
has changed.

Street level reveals carnage and chaos and gunfire everywhere. Almost instantly, Lucy is navigating this war zone alone. She evades burning cars and people shooting from walk-up windows; there’s an army dressed in black uniforms battling gun-toting civilians on the street. It’s unclear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

She runs into a dank basement suite where more peril awaits but is rescued by Stupe (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy), a guy who says he’s just trying to get to his wife and son in Hoboken.

“Is this 9/11 again?” Lucy asks him. “This isn’t an attack, this is an invasion,” Stupe mumbles.

Energetic, point-of-view camerawork continues as Lucy refuses to be shaken off by Stupe: he’s clearly had some military training, so she tails him as he zigzags from parked cars to garbage dumpsters, evading rooftop sniper fire. She’s determined to see if granny is OK; Stupe feels obliged to save Lucy, again.

Our duo links up with Lucy’s pothead sister (Angelic Zambrana), who sobers up in a hurry, and a tough-talking mom (Myra Lucretia Taylor) who has a plan to get her sons through a blockade to safety. “Helicopters, tanks… you don’t remember the ’70s.”

The cause of all this violence is eventually revealed to be a secession attempt by Texas and a handful of southern states. The plan was to take the Brooklyn neighbourhood somewhat peacefully and then force congress to ratify the decision. But “there weren’t supposed to be so many guns,” according to one of the militia members. America, duh.

Directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Millott should have given second billing to the sound technician: the deafening volley of bullets and explosions rarely lets up for the film’s running time. Comedic moments add interest to often clunky dialogue delivery: a vigilante band of Hesidic Jews lays waste to an insurgent; Stupe says he got his medical training from watching “a lot of ER.”

Acting is uneven, though our damsel-in-distress and hulking hero pair capably navigates us through the action. (Snow’s performance is a world away from her Pitch Perfect days.) The POV filming strategy is a wise one, and the whole effect of Bushwick is like a crisper, more thrilling video game.

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