J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sundance ’17: Bushwick

In New York City, Manhattan does all the work and Staten Island and Queens pay all the property taxes, but Brooklyn always thinks it’s all about them. This time they are right. Red Dawn is about to break out amid the partially gentrified neighborhood in Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott’s Bushwick, which screened during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Lucy and her boyfriend have ventured into Brooklyn for dinner at her grandmother’s apartment, but you don’t need to know his name, because he ain’t gonna make it very far. While they were in the subway, urban warfare broke out on the streets of Bushwick, but this time it is particularly bad. Suddenly single, Lucy makes a wrong turn into potential rape and murder, but fortunately Stupe the building super is there to save her. Right, he’s a super like Casey Ryback is cook.

Stupe is indeed Marine Corps trained, so he reluctantly agrees to help get Lucy to Grandma’s, before dashing off to Hoboken to check on his wife and son. However, the level of tactical coordination and armaments exhibited by the assailants makes him suspect this is no ordinary day of Brooklyn rioting. After a little “enhanced interrogation,” (remember, that never works, right?), Stupe discovers the truth: a coalition of Southern and border states has invaded Bushwick hoping to force the president to approve their succession demands (of course, that would be Pres. Trump, but whatever).

The first act of Bushwick is actually not bad, notwithstanding the Rope-like faux-single-take gimmick. Dave Bautista Dave Bautista has a big, credible action movie presence and the fact that he is not a superman, but a mortal who is injured quite early in the going could have really distinguished Bushwick. Unfortunately, the film just craters once it elevates ideology over action. Of course, the idea of holding Bushwick hostage is just ridiculous. Frankly, most New Yorkers would say: “that’s all very well, but couldn’t you destroy Williamsburg instead? Or maybe Greenpoint?”

It probably should come as no surprise the second half of Bushwick crashes and burns. Milott & Murnion’s last Sundance selection, Cooties was recut before its eventual theatrical release. Brittany Snow is inoffensive as Lucy, but her hippy-stoner sister Belinda (played by Angelic Zambrana) is like fingernails on the blackboard.

Bushwick is the sort of film that uses the decision of who lives and who dies as stick to beat the audience over the head. It is all an unruly mess, especially since most of the supporting characters are ugly criminal stereotypes, who undercut our sympathy. Not recommended, Bushwick premiered at this year’s Sundance.

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