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.

A Violent Night On The Town

kinopoisk.ru2017.18: The Purge: Anarchy (2014) – Film 4 HD

Back in the day, The Purge: Anarchy would have been a pretty fantastic John Carpenter movie. It feels like its Escape From New York 2, and screams for a Carpenter/Howarth score and Carpenter’s keen widescreen eye and gritty 70s-cool aesthetic. Indeed, its a pity they couldn’t have gotten him out of his semi-retirement to shoot this movie and maintain that 70s/80s vibe with a score and everything. What a movie that would have been.

As it is, The Purge: Anarchy is a pretty commendable effort and a big improvement on the original Purge movie. That film had the siege mentality of Assault on Precinct 13 but lacked in execution; but the central premise of one night in which anarchy reigns and all crime is deemed legal was sufficient enough a hook to enable the film to succeed. Buoyed by that films success this film clearly raises the bar in scope and channels Escape From New York with its ragtag, misfit bunch caught in the dead of night in a city full of murderers. Maybe the Carpenter influence isn’t really as intentional as it seems, but to me it’s inescapable, as both Purge films feel like Carpenter films at heart.

The trouble is, maybe these Purge films are being made a few decades too late?  These days even b-movies are pretty slick efforts, and these films for me really should seem more basic, grungy, 1970s-gritty stuff- yeah, more like those Carpenter classics or Cannon films starring Charles Bronson. Instead they come across as crisp, mainstream exploitation movies, as cynical as that seems, and a mooted move to a tv series only reinforces that.


The Purge (2013)

purge12016.31: The Purge (TV, Film 4)

The Purge is another near-future dystopia rather like The Hunger Games series. On one night every year the citizens of the United States go on a murder/rape/whatever-goes spree without any fear of criminal prosecution, the theory being that by thus exorcising them of all their pent-up frustrations and violent rage they can be law-abiding citizens the rest of the year. It’s a twelve-hour period when the police and emergency services step back and let the citizens run amok, a ‘purge’ to cleanse the soul of America, after which normal civilisation returns and survivors honour those who died ‘for the greater good’. We are told that for the remaining 364 days of the year crime is largely unheard of. All of this by the year 2022.

Whoops. 2022? Six years from now? There goes any credibility. At least The Hunger Games set itself in some distant post-Apocalypse future; this thing looks like it might happen next week. Unfortunately this film doesn’t have a big enough budget to create a far-future society, it has to be set pretty much in the here and now, hence the leap of faith and required suspension of disbelief with the date set in 2022. Its your standard modern dumb movie with a grand idea and subsequent mediocre execution.

More than that, the Purge itself is largely off-camera and the subject of news broadcasts watched by the protagonists on tv, because this film is really more an unofficial remake of Assault on Precinct 13 (oddly starring Ethan Hawke who was himself in an official remake of Assault on Precinct 13 some years ago-yes it’s all very confusing, I almost had to second-glance which film I was watching).

Hawke plays James Sandin, a wealthy engineer who has sold advanced home security systems to the rich that turns homes into armoured fortresses so Purgers cannot get in and kill owners during the annual Purge. On this particular Purge night however, after Sandin and his wife and children hunker down for the night, tech-wiz son Charlie sees an injured and bleeding man begging for help outside and allows him entry. Unfortunately for the Sandins. the man has been targeted by a gang of rich blood-thirsty Purgers who want the man released back to them so they can kill him. Otherwise they will lay siege to the house and kill all the Sandins too. Very Assault on Precinct 13 territory here.

Which brought me to the realisation that, while the film is by no means bad, it would have been immeasurably superior had it been directed by John Carpenter, a director well-accustomed to delivering real tension and thrills in films like this- hell, he directed the original Assault on Precinct 13 and very best example of this kind of siege movie. He could have made this into a tight, riveting action b-movie that was more than the sum of its parts. Hell, he could probably do it in his sleep.

Ethan Hawke in The PurgeOne other observation- Ethan Hawke is in his mid-forties now and looks incredibly similar to how Harrison Ford did in his heyday- particularly how Ford looked in Blade Runner in 1982. They could cast Hawke as a young Deckard for flashbacks in Blade Runner 2 and it’d be quite convincing. Really, give it a look. It’s quite spooky, particularly when he nervously patrols the darkened house with gun and flashlight.

Anyway, The Purge is by no means a bad film, just not as good as it might have been, even if it is saddled with a premise that isn’t really as clever as it thinks it is. I gather the second Purge movie is better and that there’s actually a third on the way. I guess audiences don’t mind their films to be stupid as long as they are simple, undemanding and violent. These Purge movies could run and run then.