Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Christian Navarro
Watch Bushwick online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
A couple walk out of a deserted subway station in Brooklyn. A man runs down the stairs into their path. He is on fire. It’s an arresting, bold opening to this riveting, if disappointingly superficial, thriller.
The premise is worryingly simple – and, with its homegrown threat, instead of an alien force invading New York, it’s the kind of thing that could have been ripped from the headlines. It’s a sign of just how much the world has shifted, or just how much society has allowed certain people within it to shift, that Bushwick’s concept has moved from absurd to almost plausible. (To tell you what it is would ruin the film’s first half, although the information is readily available in any official synopsis, so we’d recommend avoiding those.)
Graham Reznick’s script, co-written with Nick Damici (who, between Hap and Leonard, Stake Land and Cold in July, is a seasoned hand when it comes to crafting tension), drip-feeds the reasons behind the onslaught, delivering a pertinent punch – and hitting it home with several superb character-driven blows to boot. Our protagonists are Lucy (Brittany Snow) and Stupe (Dave Bautista), one a surprised resident, the other an ex-Marine-turned-janitor, who end up banding together to survive.
The duo bring depth and resourcefulness to their resilient lead pair, and directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott shoot the whole thing on handheld cameras, sneaking up stairs and diving through doors behind them with a pace (and just enough of a decent job at pretending to be in a single shot) that leaves you nervously trying to look at what’s around the corner. It’s an effective technique that might annoy those tired of found footage or who got bored midway through Birdman, but it places us directly in the midst of a domestic war zone to harrowing, visceral effect.
The problem is that Bushwick fails to stand up to much scrutiny. Givingg the residents of an oft-overlooked neighbourhood the chance to stand up against an enemy with zero tolerance of diversity makes for a satisfying narrative, but when you’re borrowing from the news, it helps if you’re prepared to back it up – and Bushwick struggles to balance that age-old conflict between anti-violent commentary and excited action sequences. It’s the equivalent of watching a viral video of someone punching a Nazi over and over again at high speed; Bautista’s gruff veteran brings a weary disdain for warfare that matches the distasteful nature of the villains reared on US soil, but does taking up arms help or hinder the situation? Bushwick raises that question, but never seems to worry about answering it. Instead, it focuses on gripping action with a trigger finger resting on America’s pulse. When it’s in motion, the result is a cracking B-movie ride. Fortunately for Bushwick, it doesn’t let up for a second.
Bushwick is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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