Ed’s back

P1110375…mind, its not as if he’d gone away anywhere, but his mug has been absent from this blog awhile. Here’s a pic I took yesterday afternoon whilst I was out back having a read in the sun.

What was I reading? Nothing too wild. I’ve been trying to read through a DC Omnibus of 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello with Argentine artist Eduardo Risso. Its a neo-noir graphic novel anthology, very dark and violent full of flawed characters and twists of fate. I think they did 100 issues or something like that (it won the Eisner award), and rarely for this kind of long-run thing, Risso did all the art throughout (I think) and its tremendous stuff, I love Risso’s graphic art style, which seems very European, distilled through what is usually an American ‘thing’ (its all set in America, at least it has been so far). This beast is only half the story and its over 1,300 pages. I bought it well over a year ago but as usual never got around to it, but the second Omnibus volume arrived a few weeks back which finally kicked me into action. Yeah, I have shelves of books on the to-do list as well as all the Blu-rays. Retirement can’t come soon enough, if only I last that long. I wonder if the shelves will last that long- these Omnibus books are routinely bloody heavy.

I sincerely hope that, no matter how interesting the premise of 100 Bullets is, that it never gets adapted for a TV series by HBO or a film series, anything like that. A series of deluxe hardbacks I bought a few years back, collecting a 72-issue series titled DMZ written by Brian Wood and drawn (mostly, but not completely) by the brilliant Italian artist  Riccardo Burchielli was a gritty story about a near-future America following a second Civil War, in which Manhattan had become a demilitarized zone (DMZ) and the setting of various misadventures involving a roster of interesting characters. I remember reading the books and thinking how crazy (albeit fascinating) the premise was, but then to my horror the real-world seemed to be catching up with it, all the polarized politics in America leading up to when Trump got the big job and all the crazy stuff that has followed. Anyway, DMZ was turned into a limited series on HBO which, from what I have seen of the horrible trailer (couldn’t subject myself to watching the series) was an adaptation in title only and looked nothing like the books I’d read. It was a pretty incendiary comic book/ graphic novel series predicting all sorts of horrors and they turned it into…ugh.

You know how it is; Hollywood loves to grab great ideas and run off and ruin them. Its a rare adaptation that turns out right, so safer to leave well alone.

Bushwick

bushThanks to its outrageously preposterous storyline, this film has an awful lot in common with John Carpenter’s classic Escape From New York, and to be honest Carpenter’s film came to mind several times during the film. Its certainly something I most appreciated from it- Carpenter had a knack of coming up with a killer (albeit ridiculous) premise, whether it be turning New York into a State Prison or an old police precinct under siege from a murderous street gang or a coastal town terrorised by ghosts of pirates after revenge, and spinning it into a compelling low-budget thriller, the low-budget, no-frills approach only adding further verisimilitude to the project. Less gloss, more grit. The low camera angles, the long single-camera shots, the rather odd funky 1970s-like soundtrack… Bushwick shares a great deal of the style and sensibilities of early Carpenter work, with particular echoes of Assault on Precinct 13.

The casting of David Bautista (so good in BR2049) brought me to it, and to be honest I really didn’t expect much other than a derivative b-movie action flick and an opportunity to see Bautista in an early career effort. I even thought the title referred to the Bautista characters name, like in films such as Shaft, Bullitt etc- I didn’t realise it referred to a NYC district.

Sometimes films pleasantly surprise, because on the whole this film was pretty good. Shot in the style of Cloverfield, as one long continuous take as if in real time, that conceit wears a little thin as you play a bit of a game spotting the trickery that they use to join all the seperate takes (lens flare giving them an artificial fade-out/fade in to white, sometimes the shot slipping into dark shadow like a momentary fade to black, sometimes a split screen created by the scenery) which is a little unfortunate, in the same way as found-footage movies get distracting when you start wondering who keeps on filming stuff in such moments of stress or how did someone later find it and edit it together. But the film somehow still draws you in, ultimately becoming compellingly fascinating viewing.

The core fascination is that daft premise, and also its nightmarish reflection of the American Dream gone amok- in this respect it often reminds of The Purge series. Its a uniquely American thing, that mash-up of patriotism and gun ownership, where it fits in society and modern civilization, how easily that could break down and the country return to the Wild West myth of good vs evil, right vs might and the power of the gun.  It reminded me a great deal of DMZ, a comic book by Brian Wood set in a near future Second American Civil War in which Manhattan Island has become a Demilitarised Zone caught between the opposing factions. I bought the deluxe hardback collections a few years back and had heard it was going to become a miniseries or something- perhaps this movie dates back to this project, because it does seem awfully close.

bush2Lucy (Brittany Snow) returns to Brooklyn with her new boyfriend Jose, to find the underground station oddy deserted and alarm sirens sounding. Nearing the exit they are confronted by a screaming man racing by, all aflame, and sounds of explosions and gunfire ahead. It transpires that the city has been invaded by an armed militia, arresting and killing people in the face of an armed response from the locals. Anarchy has broken out, criminals and police and this mysterious militia attempting to take control of the streets through gun battles with innocents caught in the carnage and looters taking advantage of the bedlam. Helicopters patrol the skies and snipers take shots from rooftops at everyone passing by, lawlessness is everywhere.

Lucy falls in with Stupe (Dave Bautista) a veteran US navy medical officer traumatised by past experiences and the loss of his family in the 9/11 tragedy. They both get injured and have to work together to survive, heading for a US army extraction point, during which they get caught in lootings and gunfights and encounters with the armed militia, discovering that Political elements have broken free of the Union, and commenced a new civil war between rival States.

Its daft and crazy but somehow it works. I think its low-budget, no-frills approach works mightily in its favour, especially in how the gritty visuals, camera work and largely electronic score evokes so much of John Carpenter’s films. Its hardly groundbreaking but I’d much rather see low-budget, novel films such as this than your typical, anodyne blockbuster films: in some ways it reminded me of the early VHS era when stuff like this seemed to be on the rental shelves.  Admittedly its use of CGI etc betrays it as a modern film but on the whole in its sensibilities it really does feel very low-fi 1980s in mood and approach. Nothing particularly groundbreaking here but a pleasant surprise nonetheless-  I enjoyed it.