Icon Film Channel: 'Bushwick' (2017) Dirs. Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion
To celebrate the new Icon Film Channel exclusively on Prime Video, one of the big movies on offer is this gritty action thriller showing New York invaded by a mysterious armed militia...
Arriving back in her hometown of Bushwick, Brooklyn, graduate Lucy (Snow) and her boyfriend Jose (Castro) are immediately caught up in a nightmare - militia have invaded Bushwick and launched an all out assault on the neighbourhood.
With no clue as to what is happening or why, Lucy flees for her life and comes across Stupe (Bautista), a former military medic also caught up in the assault and trying to get back home to his family in neighbouring Hoboken.
Lucy and Stupe only have each other as they must traverse Bushwick with no real idea of what is happening or why, but knowing they must survive and be resilient to the nightmare no matter what is thrown their way...
A slick opening 10 minutes uses an effective "one-take" shot put us alongside Brittany Snow after a normal subway ride and then up into a violent, bloody and brutal assault on the neighbourhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn. Dave Bautista's caretaker arrives to quickly on the scene to sum up the situation; armed militia have launched a strategic invasion on the district, block by block.
Snow and Bautista make a strong pair, thrown together in chaotic circumstances trying to navigate out of Bushwick. Snow has fragility but fire inside her, not just a damsel in distress, and Bautista doesn't replicate the expected heavy, one-man army warrior in the face of adversity. He shows pain and humanity when having to cauterize a glass wound early on that shows he's not an invulnerable action hero in this story. Snow and Bautista talk, they plan, they support each other and they take their time to creep through the nightmare and try to survive. It's this pacing and bond from their characters that leads to the overall tension and refreshing change to the genre that audiences may not be expecting.
Black clad masked tactical soldiers have taken the district, and stalk the streets and buildings with their muted radio chatter and Stormtrooper-esque military might. They quickly make it evident they're not afraid to shoot and to kill, be it in the street, in schools or in churches. We only hear through conversation and radio broadcasts that the US Government is trying to take control, and this militia are a true danger that have taken control but for reasons we aren't always sure about. This simply adds to the desperation and hostility of the story, trying to survive not just the militia but those in the neighbourhood using the chaos as a means to loot and steal with happy trigger fingers.
Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, along with Cinematographer Lyle Vincent and Editor Joe Hobeck, inject this with B-movie production values without short changing audiences.
It's a swift 85 mins long, mostly shot and cut in the style of long continuous takes that is technically smart and free from distraction as we move from one location to another through Bushwick in an attempt to escape. We hear a lot more than what we see, but this is great atmosphere; explosions in the distance, police sirens, gunfire, helicopters, screams. It's like the most authentic third-person video game war survival story you can play, fused with a soft techno score by Aesop Rock that doesn't detract from the tension.
Casualties stack up few and far between, but mostly they are casualties that have meaning to our core characters, be them relatives or simply a friendly face they knew working in a corner store. The violence is present but never gratuitous or crass in what you see; there is enough trauma going on without always having to see it.
Background action is always constant, choreographed brilliantly in street shoot-outs or brief car chases that zoom through the streets; everything we see and feel is what Bautista and Snow see and feel, and in doing so means we only know what they know. Action sequences themselves are few and far between and this doesn't come across as a balls-to-the-wall guns and explosions and fighting film. The fights that do happen, with Bautista lending his strong hands, are short, brutal and real with no CGI excess or noise.
It's an action film but works more on atmosphere and an underlying story about politics and power struggles, throwing innocent people into the real battleground creating a scenario that is fantastical, but scarily real in these recent times of political change and culture clashes. And the ending is spine-tingling, leaving you wanting more.
Fronted by two strong performances from Bautista and Snow, this nightmarish Civil War scenario could be one step-away from reality and brilliantly executed for the genre.
'Bushwick' is streaming on The Icon Film Channel now: https://amzn.to/33h06uh
'Bushwick' is a co-production between Bullet Pictures, Mensch Productions and XYZ Films