Review: 'Bushwick' Starring Dave Bautista And Brittany Snow

The best thing you can do before checking out Bushwick, the new action flick from Cooties directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, is to go in knowing as little as possible. Even though the film played at Sundance and I was even scheduled to see it there but couldn't make it, my knowledge of it beyond stars Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow was limited. So the first few minutes of chaos were effective in disorienting me for the insane roller coaster ride to come. Bushwick plays like Red Dawn by way of John Carpenter, and deserves to sit pretty high up in the sub-genre of paramilitary invasion flicks.

Brittany Snow plays Lucy, a college student returned home to New York to visit her grandma, and to introduce her new boyfriend to the family. Details about them zip by: Lucy hasn't told her family she's dating anybody yet, and it becomes pretty clear right away that she wears the pants in this relationship. All seems normal until the subway station becomes eerily quiet and empty. Emerging into the light of day, they find the entire city has become a warzone. Lucy quickly finds herself alone, scared, and nearly a victim until she encounters Stupe (Bautista), a janitor and ex-military vet with a gentle soul and killer survival skills.

What the heck is going on? I think the particular details of the invasion are best left discovered, but they strike a timely note given today's social climate. Ultimately they are less important than Lucy and Stupe just trying to stay alive while crossing this concrete battlefield where danger lurks, literally, around every street corner. Stupe is a loner by nature and dragging along Lucy, who seems like a burden at first, isn't in his nature. But she begins to prove tougher than her appearance, and an interesting shift takes place where Lucy becomes the assertive one as they charge forward to her grandmother's house.

While Milott and Murnion aren't known as action filmmakers, they create a believably violent, tense combat zone where it seems like anything can happen. Their approach is surprising, choosing to give the appearance of shooting it in a single-take. While I did notice a few obvious cuts, the untrained eye won't see them or care. Most will be caught up in the rapidly elevating stakes; the tension mounting as Lucy and Stupe grow nearer to their goal. While I think it's impossible to judge what anybody would do in such a jarring situation, some of their decisions are ludicrous and like an attempt to keep the momentum up. But, those decisions actually have the opposite effect. When new characters are introduced, one of which is Lucy's stoner sister, we begin to see just how fragile the story's structure really is. It's built to be a two-hander and can't sustain the need to give more characters screen time.

Snow and Bautista are more than enough, anyway. She has always been best when given the chance to play feisty and tough, which she has ample opportunity to do as the film rolls along. She connects well with Bautista in a role that has vague echoes of his Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. Stupe is powerful, quiet, and a warrior with a caring heart. There's a great scene later in the film where we learn a great deal about what makes Stupe tick, and Bautista nails this gentle moment in the middle of what looks like World War 3.

Combined with imaginative cinematography and an appropriately frenzied score by Aesop Rock, Bushwick is an exciting gear shift for these directors, and should be sought out be genre fans in need of something new.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5