The Forgotten Action Movie That's (Hopefully Not) A Prophecy Of 2020
NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Bushwick, a movie from 2017 you probably not have heard of until now.
So, yesterday the FBI charged a bunch of far-right domestic terrorists with planning on kidnapping the governor of Michigan, conducting a show trial, and potentially murdering her, as show trials historically do not have heartwarming underdog twists. This didn't get enough press because reality is a quicksand field that also serves as a sinkhole for runoff from a nearby diarrhea factory. (Also, a fly landed on Mike Pence's head.)
Yes, America kind of feels nowadays like a decomposing latex Ninja Turtle. The United States is a divided nation, meaning that a "civil war" is no longer just a thing for divorced dads to reenact, and according to fairly credible political prognosticators, far-right domestic paramilitary groups are the country's foremost terror threat.
The reasons being, of course, is that some are fearing that a contested election could lead to a surge of white supremacist militia violence -- which wouldn't be all that surprising seeing as armed militias have been popping up in response to protests across the U.S. and the President recently gave a shout out to The Proud Boys during the first presidential debate. Furthermore, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two people and was horrifyingly hailed as a hero by the right and even the benefactor of a crowdfunding campaign spearheaded by Christian groups, proving that we're all living inside some kind of twisted Disney Channel reboot of Taxi Driver.
In retrospect, one recent movie was oddly prophetic about all this, anticipating the militia violence of 2020, albeit in a clumsy story featuring a former WWE star. You very likely may not have seen Bushwick, the 2017 action movie starring Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow. It didn't even get a U.S. theatrical release and made just over $79,000 at the international box office, which isn't a big amount for a movie not starring Kevin Spacey.
The film follows Lucy (mostly in impressive long, single-shot takes), a grad student bringing her boyfriend home to the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn -- likely because action movies with the word "wick" are a plus right now. Things take a turn when her boyfriend, a.k.a. Jaime from Broad City, promptly explodes upon leaving the subway.
Lucy discovers that the neighborhood is being attacked by some mysterious paramilitary group. There are snipers on roofs, bombs being tossed from windows and random drive-by shootings. By happenstance, Lucy connects with a surprisingly jacked former military janitor named Stupe (played by Bautista) in a dank bunker, presumably because the filmmakers just assume that everyone working in the custodial arts lives in some kind of urine-soaked cellar.
The two team up and work together to help Lucy get to her grandmother's house and Stupe back to his wife and kid who live across the rivers in Hoboken, New Jersey. This means that they must make their way through the treacherous (yet legally dissimilar from The Purge) streets. And it's pretty bleak.
After finally making it to her grandmother's house, Lucy discovers that Nana promptly had a heart attack and died in her absence. So they travel to Lucy's sister's apartment who is cartoonishly stoned and horny despite the literal war being fought outside, which she mistook for a noisy neighbor playing Call of Duty. Stupe manages to capture one of the vigilante soldiers and forces him to reveal his identity. As his mask is lifted, the music builds as if we're going to get a twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan or Chubby Checker. It turns out that he's ... some white guy.
Yeah these "terrorists" are American -- specifically Southern secessionists who have coordinated attacks on key Northern cities. And we get that this is somewhat ridiculous. On the one hand the premise of Brooklyn being terrorized by an army of right wingers feels like a paranoid hipster nightmare; Red Dawn by way of NPR. But then again, no other mainstream movies were tackling this issue at the time. When it was released back in 2017, Bushwick fell ass-backwards into relevancy, coming out the same month as the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a white supremacist rally ended with the murder of counter-protestor Heather Heyer. Suddenly the movie had a new resonance that was completely inadvertent. But the film didn't really hold-up to the kind of real world political scrutiny it suddenly invited.
When asked about Charlottesville in an interview, directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion made some surprisingly awkward comments, seemingly laying blame on both sides (as President Trump famously did) arguing that the counter-protestors should have been "more peaceful" others were at a similar incident in Boston, adding "that's definitely much more the route to take."
Which is a dumb thing to say because A) the counter-protestors were peaceful, and did nothing to provoke being run over by a fucking car, and B) the side composed of literal Nazis is always the wrong side. That's why we unfailingly side with Indiana Jones, even though he's clearly a total scuzzball. This is ultimately the biggest problem with the movie Bushwick; despite giving us an impressively realistic glimpse of what an alt-right insurgency might look like in real life, it completely sidesteps their bigotry. The one militia goon they capture admits that their forces are struggling because they underestimated the strength of the "ethnodiversity" of Bushwick.
Which is a cute idea, making the theme of "diversity is strength" very literal. But it's baffling (and perhaps naive) to presume that the diversity of these cities would be a surprise to the attackers rather than a motive for their violence. The other major discrepancy between Bushwick and real life is the premise that these attackers would be battling the U.S. government, rather than working with them. In Bushwick, the militias are holding cities hostage to force the "President to fold" and grant the request to secede. In reality, alt-right militias may be, effectively deputized by the President; Trump has been officially recruiting volunteer "poll watchers ... potentially including far-right militias and vigilantes" for the election.
As for the film, in the end, Lucy discovers that Stupe's family died years earlier, which comes as a shock because, apparently, she never saw Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Then Lucy dies in the end while the city burns. It's a real bummer.
The same filmmakers went on to tackle similarly sensitive subject matter in a genre setting with this year's Becky, better known as that movie where Kevin James plays a neo-Nazi. So maybe we should just be glad that the head of the alt-right militia wasn't played by, like, David Spade or something.
Top Image: RLJ Entertainment