Bushwick (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival]

A young woman coming home from school to introduce her boyfriend to her family arrives in Bushwick as an unknown military force is invading and killing people left and right.  As she tries to make her way home, she stumbles upon an ex-military man who helps her in her quest.

Written by Nick Damici and Graham Reznick and directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, Bushwick is a story telling tour de force.  That term is often used incorrectly, but here it’s one of those films that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until its last frame.  The story here is very compelling and directed in a way that makes the viewer want, or need, to see what is next.  The characters are simple yet effective, they are mysterious in a way that strangers are to each other and they reveal themselves little by little, making them feel so human, so close to the audience.  The film takes an almost minimalistic approach to its story telling and its characters until it is needed for it to go wider and fuller.

The cast here is mainly composed of Brittany Snow as Lucy, the student walking into the mess that is the attack on Bushwick and Dave Bautista as Stupe, the man she stumbles upon while looking for safety, a man who is more than capable to handle this but is also damaged by the past.  Both of their performances are fantastic with Bautista giving one of those performances that might very well be career-defining.  His turn as Stupe is subtly powerful, with a strength underlying with emotions.  One particular scene where he gives a bit of monologue hits hard and shows the man can act the hell out of anything without overdoing it in any way.  He uses the right amount of emotions and restraint, the perfect nuanced performance through some extremely hard scenes.  He is the big surprise of this film for this reviewer used to seeing him in action fare and as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Bushwick now puts Bautista on the list of actors to watch for dramatic performances.

The cinematography of Bushwick, by Lyle Vincent, is stunning.  It takes this potential end of the world scenario and elevates it to a beautiful film that moves in a sort of dance through its scenes and sequences.  The editing by Joe Hobeck adds to this dance as a perfect partner, cutting from one scene to another in a way that is so subtle, the film looks like it is almost just one sequence without cuts.  The more trained eyes will spot the cuts but they are in no way intrusive and do actually help keep the film moving like a visual ballet.

The film also has a few special effects shots which are very well done.  The practical effects such as wounds and blood are not plentiful but that fact offers the opportunity to what there is to be more effective.  The practical effects by Stella Sensel show the restraint necessary for this and work in a way that is not subtle per se, but are not over-powering.  The visual effects done under visual effects supervisor Ajoy Mani and visual effects lead Perry Kroll are subtle throughout the film until the end when they get to shine in an extended sequence that hits hard after the softer violence of the rest of the film.

Bushwick is an amazing film that works with its violence in a visual ballet of sorts while the performers within give strong, powerful performances that are perfect for the story.  The way the film moves through its sequences, the way it’s edited, and how it’s directed create, with the performance, a sort of lulling sense of dread and stress, something that may not make sense on paper, but that leaves the audience speechless by its crescendo-ing ending.  Bushwick is a beautiful, gut-punch of emotions that tells a worthwhile story that many will want to ignore but all should see.  It’s a sort of violent fairytale too close to a potential reality for comfort, but also so well-made that it feels like actual reality.  It’s a necessary watch and one that hits just right.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.