“We’ll make it one block at a time”
The circumstances are horrific, but Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott‘s Bushwick couldn’t have picked a timelier week to hit limited theatrical release. We’re just barely ten days out from the tragic death of a counter-protestor by a white supremacist and the viral footage of so-called “alt-right” militias strapped with automatic weaponry while adorned in full camouflage. These are the Nazis who scream racial epithets and lament about taking “their” country back, the men and women who truly believe America is a nation of whites, for whites. So it’s not that far-fetched to wonder when the first skirmish will pop off—when this vile rhetoric that way too many self-proclaimed “non-racists” say is their right turns to inevitable violence. Will you find the courage to stand and fight back?
Directors Murnion and Milott’s story (Nick Damici and Graham Reznick are credited with the screenplay) depicts the faux real-time events of just such an insurgence. The parallels are uncanny as far as it being led by mercenaries hailing from old confederate states ready to travel distances to show their numbers grown out of the internet’s dark corners. In their minds they’re the true heroes: the brawny, macho men who love the Second Amendment as though it only applies to their sensibilities and politics. I’m not sure real white supremacists are stupid enough to believe urban melting pots up north won’t have their own stockpile of guns (legal and illegal alike), but it’s one aspect of the film we can pray is correct. Let them underestimate the true America.
We enter the story with Lucy (Brittany Snow), someone who’s easy to dismiss as part of the problem. She’s white, blonde, and college-educated—a eugenics ideal. Unfortunately this also renders her an outsider to both sides. The invaders can’t blindly trust her and the entrenched can’t be blamed for believing she’s a sympathizer. We know better, though. We meet Lucy in the subway with her Latino boyfriend Jose (Arturo Castro). We learn she’s Bushwick-raised and not some interloper to be brutalized on sight. Similar to how this fictional war is steeped in preconceptions, however, her survival is more or less dictated by them too. It’s therefore lucky that she stumbles into the home of Stupe (Dave Bautista), an ex-Marine positioned on the right side of history.
The two become inseparable as they look to keep breathing amidst the chaos. They’re battling the senseless violence of punks using the insanity as a means to kill whomever they want as well as the professionally trained army that’s pushing through. Stupe hopes to leave Brooklyn and make his way to Hoboken to protect his wife and daughter; Lucy must stay local to extricate her grandmother and sister (Angelic Zambrana‘s Belinda) before going anywhere else. So Stupe lends his expertise as more a casualty of his moral center than any desire to be of service. He’s spent a long time distancing himself from death and now he’s right back in the middle of it. They have no choice, though. Specifics are cloudy, but the kill-or-be-killed atmosphere is clear.
Bushwick strives to capitalize on the adrenaline rush aesthetic of a videogame, masking its numerous cuts with distracting close-ups and pans to transport us from one sequence to the next as though we’ve never left. It’s an admirable attempt, but one that doesn’t wholly work as far as adding anything to what’s already a pretty pulse-pounding scenario. If anything it proves confusing as a result of many such segues occurring in places that don’t need them like walking up stairs. The device forces us to prepare for what must be another complex set-up only to reach a scene of conversation instead. This constant starting and stopping had me growing numb to the carnage when it did come because I was too tired to continue anticipating it without payoff.
Those moments that do hit big, however, are where the film shines brightest because we’re less interested in Lucy and Stupe than where their journey takes them. We want answers and to experience the escalation in danger as more citizens realize what’s happening and take their stand. The notion of following them is therefore a means to an end wherein they’re the constant that allows us to understand who the good guys and the bad guys are. Sometimes they seek to help the helpless and other times they look for the quickest way out to save their own skin—especially when things get truly out of hand. You can’t blame them for either as deserted streets met with targeted gunfire transform into smoke-filled warzones after the sun sets.
Things really become unhinged as far as anticipating what’s next when this happens. Adversaries prove themselves allies and scared victims turn into dangerous foes simply because they’re unequipped to comprehend the situation as something they may yet survive. The body count grows exponentially in the meantime with both random and familiar characters adding themselves to the pile. Give Murnion and Milott a ton of credit for this is as they ensure the pandemonium that would ensue from such a crazy show of force is realistically portrayed. This is a civil war fought by inexperienced yet passionate souls banding together despite their differences in order to take down a group of people our silent indifference has helped create. So choose your side and prepare. America itself is at stake.
 [L-R] Dave Bautista as Stupe and Brittany Snow as Lucy in the action film “BUSHWICK” an RLJ Entertainment Release. Photo courtesy of Seacia Pavao.
 Dave Bautista as Stupe in the action film “BUSHWICK” an RLJ Entertainment Release. Photo courtesy of Seacia Pavao.
 Brittany Snow as Lucy in the action film “BUSHWICK” an RLJ Entertainment Release. Photo courtesy of Seacia Pavao.