Lucy (Brittany Snow) has arrived by the New York City subway in the area of Bushwick in Brooklyn along with her boyfriend who she wants to introduce to her family, as they have never met him before. As they disembark and walk through the station, she kids him that they will be interrogating him about his intentions with her, and he jokes about it, but neither are laughing when they start to wonder why there is nobody else around - nobody except a man who hurtles down the stairs ablaze and runs off screaming. What the hell is going on? They make their way to the steps leading to the outside world and can hear gunfire, yelling and even explosions; her boyfriend tells her to be careful as he creeps up to find out what the situation is - and seconds later is killed in a blast.
Here was a film that took its own sweet time in telling you what was up, but when it did it turned out to be extremely politically charged in a way that echoed The Purge and its sequels, which indeed appeared to be a loose model for this production. Not a straight copy, however, as there were, if not bigger, then other fish to fry in a plot that turned out to be released to the world at time when it felt as if the United States was fracturing in real life, and this fictional version was an apt metaphor for that social distress. The thing about this was that as those Purge movies had demonstrated, there was never a point in the twenty-first century when crying that doom was around the corner had gone out of fashion.
With an unstable government there led by a weak, divisive President and social unrest becoming a seeming norm when Bushwick arrived, you could observe it was cleverly foreseeing what many citizens' fears were, on the other hand there were so many tales of society breaking down in a science fiction setting that one was bound to look more appropriate when it was unleashed on a sadly suspecting world eventually. The idea behind the war zone that Brooklyn has turned into here was simple, that the country was too riven with violent disagreement to survive, and that was going to bubble up to the surface eventually if there were enough people banding together to impose their will on the rest, with force if necessary.
Bushwick has been chosen by this invasion spearhead because it was judged so ethnically diverse that the residents would never see eye to eye enough to unite and repel this army, therefore would be an easy target for takeover. Part of the bleakly humorous irony in a not very humorous film was that uniting was precisely what they did, albeit after certain locals take advantage of the mayhem and use it to loot and murder (there was The Purge influence) which has to be sorted out before repelling the insurgents can be achieved. Lucy, now very much on her own but determined to reach her grandmother's house (yes, she is wearing a red coat) is rescued from two looters by Stupe, played by Dave Bautista who is injured early on, leaving him resembling a bear with a sore paw for the rest of the duration.
Not that Stupe had much to say, he is a man of few words, but he takes Lucy under his wing when she appeals to his protective nature, the reasons for which we discover in a monologue that ill-advisedly brought the World Trade Center attacks into the mix; fair enough, the spectre of real life terrorism was being invoked here, but it was too blatant and clunky to have the leading man reference that atrocity as a motivating factor. You had the impression directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott were keen to offer a news footage tone to the proceedings, hence this was constructed in real time and with a series of long takes, edited together so you (mostly) could not see the joins, and while there was a found footage feel to watching it play out, it remained undeniably effective as a fluid method of keeping the pot boiling. That an essential pessimism endured about what would occur in this situation may not be something everyone would get on with, but it did present a conclusion of how much there was to lose if everyone failed to get their act sorted out and get along. Music by Aesop Rock.