I’m not sure whether or not faux-one-take scenes are impressive or distracting, especially once you become aware of them. Should the filmmakers be praised for disguising the edits, making it seem as if long periods of the film were created without them, or should they be condemned for the “hiding” of those edits being quite noticeable and therefore taking the audience out of the experience? Maybe that’s more of a problem for film critics than it is for the general audience.
Bushwick is filmed and edited like this for the majority of its running time. There are traditional cuts, too, but they’re few and far between. Most of the time, during a hurried segment of the movie, someone will walk in front of the camera, or something similar, it’ll go dark enough to hide an edit, and we’ll keep going under the illusion that no editing has taken place. Astute viewers will notice and be taken out of the world the film has built, which sees a literal civil war break out in the streets of Brooklyn.
We follow two people, primarily: Lucy (Brittany Snow) and Stupe (Dave Bautista). She is home to visit her grandmother, while he lives in the neighborhood. They eventually meet up, by chance, and traverse the city streets together, trying to avoid being killed by people on both sides. The war breaks out almost immediately; it takes quite a long time to even find out what it’s about. Look at America’s current political climate and you probably won’t struggle too hard to figure out the reasoning.
That’s pretty much the whole movie. These two people go from place to place, try not to die, and occasionally pause to (1) learn some information about the fighting, (2) treat their various wounds, or (3) expound some information about themselves so we get to know a little about them as people. Most of this dialogue is clumsy and probably could have used more polish, but it does the job. Mostly, we’re here for the intense action, which thanks to the long takes (even without the hidden edits) aims to make us feel like we’re part of it – immersed in the hellscape that has come to be.
Bushwick is a serviceable thriller that doesn’t overstay its welcome and does a decent job of immersing the audience in its chaotic action.
That part is modestly effective. If you can get past the poorly disguised edits, the shaky-but-not-too-shaky camerawork and lengthy takes of people running and shooting does make you feel like you’re there. It’s a scary situation, especially because of how something like this feels like it could, at some point in the near future, happen. You’re also going to have to overlook some dodgy CGI because, while this isn’t a high-budget film, turning the streets of Brooklyn into a war zone convincingly costs money.
One of Bushwick‘s stronger aspects, and it’s one that it underuses, is its political subtext. We find out why the war is going on and we see some of its effects on people but it could have gone into a lot more depth or made the political commentary far more prevalent. As it is, it’s here every now and then, but most of the time we’re more focused on the survival of two relatively bland characters than the bigger picture. That would’ve been fine if Lucy and Stupe were better characters, but they’re just good enough to be tolerable.
I will say, though, that Bushwick does a very good job of using Dave Bautista. He’s an imposing figure, but his dramatic roles so far have been very hit-and-miss. Casting him as a war veteran is almost the perfect type of role for him. Brittany Snow, meanwhile, is The Girl, which just about describes how much characters she’s given. The two actors get to yell and scream and run and shoot and they’re both fine at doing that.
Bushwick is a serviceable thriller that doesn’t overstay its welcome and does a decent job of immersing the audience in its chaotic action. Its central gimmick of pretending to have most of its scenes shot in one-take is distracting, at least to me, and its characters leave a lot to be desired. It also probably could have gotten more mileage out of its political subtext, which would have made up for its lackluster characters. Bushwick is a decent movie that had the potential to be great.
Conclusion: Bushwick is a decent war movie that could’ve been much better.
Recommendation: If you’re interested in the premise or like movies with really long takes (even if some of them are faked), check out Bushwick.