VIFF 2011 Review: BumRush

The gangsta film BumRush played at the Vancouver Film Festival. I know what you’re going to say: “I’ve seen gangsta movies before.” BumRush is different. Firstly, it’s Canadian and set in Montreal. Secondly, it’s based off a sting and of events that really happened. Whether it can compare to other hood movies or gangsta movies of the past is one big question mark.

The film is set in Montreal in a strip club. In the past, the neighborhood of the club has had its dealings with rivalry from biker gangs and the Montreal mafia. Now comes a new messy chapter for the club as the neighborhood sees a crossfire between two rivaling street gangs. Soon they want to seize power over the club. This leads to a huge mess on all sides and the condition of the club in jeopardy. Soon the IB11 gang declares the club their property.

To end it all, the leader of the sting, Le Kid, finds an opportunity in five tough men who have had a brotherhood for many years. They also see it in Catherine, a girl who was imprisoned for her activity in relation for one of the gangs. She wants out of gang life but is having trouble with her criminal record being checked. Le Kid sees her and the brotherhood as an opportunity to get the gangs out of the club. It starts with a sting where Catherine gives the leader and his girlfriend spiked shooters. Later one of the gang members takes the drugged up girlfriend out to make out, only to have a cop videotape it with a phone and send it to the gang members. The video leads to more heated friction between the gangs. Then the brotherhood kidnap the two leading gang members to a mortuary to force them to tell the whereabouts of two men they’re after. This leads to an ending that has a small amount of action and some amount of cheeseball moments.

If there’s one strength about the movie, it’s that it shows a lot of forgotten truths that most gangsta movies or hood movies leave out or neglect. One often overlooked truth is girls involved with gangs like Catherine. Catherine’s role shows an angle of girls who want out of the gang system and start a better life. It also shows the ill misogynistic treatment girls get from gang members like the vulgar treatment of the strippers and the girl that was ‘gangbanged.’ That’s it with gangs. They think that because they have all the gun power they can treat women as mysogynistically as they want. That part happens to be the movie’s biggest strength.

Another thing is that it doesn’t show a completely happy ending. It shows the ugly reality that gangs have taken their street activities online and expanded their territory greatly. It’s a new truth that gangs have gone from just their own hood to anywhere online. There’s even talk on the news in Vancouver about gangs going online. That’s one thing that we often forget is that even after a sting is made, there’s still a lot of things left behind or things that don’t go away.

Another thing about the movie is that it features the final acting performance of Montreal musician Bad News Brown. He was famous in Quebec for being a harmonica-playing hip hop blues musician and was a opening act for many big name hip hop stars in Montreal, even accompanying some on stage. Brown was murdered in Montreal on February 11th or this year at the age of 33. This movie could possibly be English Canada’s first introduction to him and Quebec’s last time they’d see him on the screen.

Director Michel Jette did an excellent job in researching the story and creating a good script that was as smart as it was thrilling. He doesn’t rely completely on too much action or too much shootouts but rather focuses on the scenes leading up to the big moment and the people surrounding it. Nevertheless for all of the script’s intelligence, there were a few flat points and noticeable glitches. There were also some corny moments with the harmonica playing of Loosecannon. I often wondered if having a harmonica playing gangsta was such a good idea. The acting was imperfect and often overdone from some. Also the timing of this movie being out at a time when the popularity of gangsta movies have faded over time makes me question whether this would make for a good commercial release.

BumRush’s best quality is its truthfulness about gang activity and those around it. Its weakness is its lack of professionalism from many of the actors and a script that gets confusing over time. This one left me questioning its potential in the end, especially for English Canada.

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