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Bushwick: Dare to be Different

Once in a long while, a movie comes along that sets a breathless pace and takes you to unexpected places. I just watched Bushwick. With its long, uninterrupted tracking shots, this is a war movie that plays like the cameraman is an embedded documentarian. It’s kind of terrific, mostly because it’s so different. This is a film that doesn’t hit the usual beats. It’s not even trying to get you to like it. Not liking it is part of the point.

Rotten Tomatoes rates it at only 45% and, wow, they’ve got it wrong. 

Lots of people will tell you different is bad. Hit all the tropes and give audiences what they expect. One of the reasons I loved War of the Worlds (the version with Tom Cruise) is that the focus was on the refugees. Yes, it was about alien invaders but the way they followed the action, it could have been a movie about any civilians trying to escape a war zone. Nobody’s trying to save the day. They’re just trying to make it to the end of the day.

Minor Spoiler alert:

In Bushwick, the director wants you to know that nobody is safe and, really, nobody is. The heroine, played by Brittany Snow, loses a finger early on. That’s the moment I realized I wasn’t watching a movie that would play by the rules. That’s the moment I got interested in where they were going to go and wondered how far they’d take it. Yes, it’s a shoot-em-up, but it’s a shoot-em-up that has a strong point of view and an uncomfortable sociopolitical subtext.

This B movie did something right that most movies get wrong.

Dave Bautista from Guardians of the Galaxy stars in Bushwick, but he’s no  Superman. He’s flawed and he’s got issues but they don’t even go too deep on that. He plays wounded, emotionally and physically, all the way through. One detail I loved: the actors act tired. They don’t look like they got a nice rest in their trailers between takes. Almost all movies make the mistake of allowing bad things to happen and then letting the protagonists shake off the effects, as if you can ignore a concussion by sheer force of will.

This is not a perfect movie and if you’re from the Southern states, you’re probably going to hate it. The final shot would understandably shock many Americans into hating it. However, this movie isn’t needy. It’s got something bigger to say about what war is really like.

I love different.

It is so rare for a story to really surprise me that I ended up enjoying Bushwick (although “enjoying” isn’t quite the right word). It didn’t try for easy so it shouldn’t be graded on the same curve as movies that are out to affirm audience expectations. When’s the last time a movie challenged you? Do the Right Thing? That weird moment in the MLK biopic when he doesn’t immediately deny he’s cheated on his wife? American History X? Schindler’s List? The Thin Red Line? It doesn’t happen often does it>

I’m not saying Bushwick is on par with those movies. It’s not. I’m saying, as artists, we should dare to defy reader expectations once in a while. Consider it. Yes, you’ll get dinged for it in reviews, but you’re a writer. Surely you’ve got something to say about the world besides running through a plot like it’s paint-by-numbers, right?

Bushwick isn’t going to be for everybody and I wouldn’t watch it again. However, look for the names Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott. You’ll hear more from these directors in the future. I predict that the next time you see their work, they’ll be coming back at you with a bigger budget. They strike me as people who have something to say about the world.

~ Robert Chazz Chute likes to write twisty suspenseful books that surprise and entertain. Check out his stuff at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.



Filed under: movies, publishing

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