Sundance London: Bushwick (2017)

Bushwick by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott is an action-filled dark imagining of civil war in the streets of Brooklyn.

Street Fighting Woman

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

It’s a great premise – you unsuspectingly come out of your local subway station after the trains are suddenly suspended to find your suburban streets filled with armed fighters shooting at each other, helicopter gunships clattering overhead, your boyfriend is torched to a crisp by a flamethrower and martial law has been declared. What would you do?

Bushwick is set in a down-at-heel Brooklyn suburb and, with violent division breaking out all around the world, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Ironically, it’s the second mention of Bushwick in the Sundance London selection – Jessica, in The Incredible Jessica James, can only afford to live in ‘deep Bushwick’, an area that provokes shuddering distaste in her admirer Boone (Chris O’Dowd). However… Lucy (Brittany Snow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) tries to make it through the dangerous streets to her grandmother’s house. On her way, she’s saved from rape and possible death by resourceful loner Stupe (David Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2), a burly ex-Marine who seems to have all the survivalist answers.

Now armed herself, Lucy joins with Stupe to try and escape Bushwick. They evade the masked, armed troops doing house-to-house searches, tangle with looters and random killers and pick up Lucy’s spaced-out druggie sister (Angelic Zambrana). They learn that what amounts to civil war has been declared by Texas seceding from the United States and that Bushwick has been targeted with a shoot-to-kill policy because it has been assumed that with its high immigrant population, the residents will be too weak to fight back.

Bushwick premiered at Sundance in Utah and was a hotly anticipated screening in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. To repeat, it’s a great premise and the film is exciting in parts. It’s first and foremost an action movie – though with a topical political twist – where, despite some personal back-story revelations en route, the characters don’t really manage to engage enough with us emotionally. But somehow the great idea becomes somewhat repetitive and starts to run out of steam, as if the writers (Nick Damici and Graham Reznick) couldn’t find anywhere substantial enough to take their screenplay and throw in a few too many clichés on the way to the sudden, unexpected ending, and the special effects suffer from their low-budget look. Maybe in Trumpian America the truth out there is far more threatening than any fiction could possibly imagine.

Bushwick is showing at the Sundance London film festival on 2 and 3 June 2017.

Join the discussion