College student Lucy (Brittany Snow: Pitch Perfect 2) comes up out of the New York City subway to find that all hell has broken loose: there’s gunfire and explosions everywhere, fires burning, mysterious troopers — terrorists? — in black rounding up residents (or killing them), no signs of NYPD or any other legitimate authorities. Terrified, baffled, and on the verge of becoming a victim of the sudden lawlessness, Lucy teams up with reluctant veteran Stupe (Dave Bautista: Blade Runner 2049) as they both attempt to get to safety… if such a place exists.
The less you know about Bushwick (named for Lucy and Stupe’s working-class neighborhood in northern Brooklyn) the better — all the marketing of the film, from the trailer to the DVD descriptions, is far too spoilerish — for the incredibly fierce tension and horror that directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott create is heightened by the uncertainty over just what the hell is going on and how widespread the urban chaos might be: is it just Bushwick? just Brooklyn? is it all of NYC? WTF?
Screenwriter Nick Damici (with Graham Reznick) has a good nasty track record with fresh-take horror: his 2007 rat-virus-zombie flick Mulberry Street is also very specifically New York–ish, and his vampire adventure Stake Land, from 2010, shares an appreciation for fucked-up Americana with Bushwick. But it’s the panache with which Murnion and Milott pull off the trick of the movie appearing to play out in breathless real time, as if it were one long uncut take, that makes the experience so riveting.
The cuts are hidden, mostly pretty seamlessly, as Lucy and Stupe wend their way through abandoned shops and homes, dodging both the strange invaders and those who would take advantage of the anarchy. It’s a no-letup shockwave of social breakdown, and a terrific example of innovative low-budget action filmmaking.