I always get leery watching action movies that don’t want to accept their identity. Bushwick essentially is another U.S. invasion film like Red Dawn and its far inferior 2012 remake. And just like those films, Bushwick scraps logic by insisting its evil armed militia force has deemed the Brooklyn neighborhood as a high-profile target instead of Manhattan. Attacking Harlem would be stupid because of Luke Cage.
But Bushwick’s greatest misstep is the filmmakers play it too straight. There’s no fun or winking acknowledgment that they’re in on the gag and just want audiences to stop thinking and enjoy it. There’s an enjoyment factor watching a hero overcome ridiculous odds and mowing down invaders. By taking it seriously, the film ends up calling more attention to every absurd moment. Movie wise, there’s few things worse than a dumb action movie tries to be serious.
In fairness, directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott try to avoid clichés and keep things unpredictable. It’s just a matter of the realism coming in doses instead of being carried through consistently.
Lucy (Brittany Snow) comes of the train with her boyfriend only to walk into a war zone. This opening act builds the suspense of the unknown nicely as Lucy wanders around the streets with black armor-clad militia members gunning down and binding passersby. She clearly has no hope of surviving much longer when she encounters Stupe (Dave Bautista), a former soldier trying to escape the city.
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Bautista is a thoughtful WWE athlete turned actor and has been savvy about what roles he’s accepted. That’s led to memorable turns against Daniel Craig in Spectre, Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 and his breakout role as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Despite his stature and presence, Bautista has mostly avoided the cliché muscled out action hero roles. It’s hard to argue against his decisions based on the high-profile work he’s had over the last three years.
But Bushwick is the one role Bautista took that needed the classic near invincible action hero Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, etc. made iconic in the 80s and 90s. Stupe isn’t a larger than life wrecking ball capable of whittling down an army of bad guys while sneering or uttering cool catchphrases. He’s a big guy who’s grown accustomed to operating on the small scale. Bautista has enough charisma to drag the film along to an entertaining level, but he ends up coming down to its level.
Snow has proven in other films (Pitch Perfect, Hairspray) to be a decent actress, but the script by Nick Damici and Graham Reznick doesn’t help her out much. Lucy alternates from being a whiny, crying damsel in distress to being a one-woman army.
Murnion and Milott have some interesting ways to compensate for the lower budget with a continuous take. Shots are positioned like the viewer is watching from their POV and experiencing the action alongside Stupe and Lucy, but Buschwick can’t shake the claustrophobic feeling from budget restrictions.
At 94 minutes, Bushwick isn’t too lengthy an experience, but it’s never rewarding enough to prove worthy of a Netflix or VOD tryout.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Bullet Pictures