B.U.S.T.E.D. (102 minutes) 1998/Rated R – starring Goldie, Andrew Goth, David Bowie, Sarah Bird, Rachel Shelley, Clint Dyer, David Baker, and Graham Bryan. Written and directed by Andrew Goth. Released through Sterling Home Entertainment.
Originally titled “Everybody Loves Sunshine” and having played the festival circuit, “B.U.S.T.E.D.” didn’t see much theatrical exposure. For average gangster-style plotting, with a British spin, the film is, however, intriguingly satisfying in the performances of its three leads. The locations, which were filmed on the Isle of Man, lend a cold, working class feel that is rarely captured in a genre littered with flashy urban settings. The photography is more than adequate, showcasing the brick-laden rows of non-descript homes in the Pepperhill Estates area, and the techno soundtrack drives the pace of the plotting in a fervent gallop.
Writer/director Andrew Goth, a Manchester filmmaker, based a lot of the characterizations on his experiences around the gang life of local friends in his home city. Terry (techno dance/funk performer Goldie) and his cousin Ray (Goth) are released from prison and find that their gang’s operation has been overrun by a local Chinese triad organization. With the steady hand of their finance man, Bernie, (David Bowie) guiding them, the two argue about their future in criminal life. Ray wants out of the thug life, preferring to perform in a techno dance band, while Terry wants to wipe out their Asian adversaries and claim himself the king of the city once again. As sure as you can already recite the plot points, the two wind up as adversaries by film’s end.
As mentioned, it’s the actors’ commitment to their characters that give this effort a cut-above qualification. Goldie, with his display of shiny gold teeth and pitbull sneer, ably portrays the out-of-whack Terry, a jacked-up container of nitro just waiting to get pushed too far. Andrew Goth’s Ray is, at first, as hardened as his cousin, with a droopy-eyed stare that cuts through anyone trying to reason with him, but as the film progresses, he deftly allows us to warm to the changes he is wrestling with. And for my money, this is one of Bowie’s best performances in a long time. He is the voice of calm, quietly sewing a handkerchief, peering over his spectacles, but keeping a keen sense of awareness of the situation going on around him. He’s particularly effective in a scene where Goldie confronts him at gunpoint, accusing him of a doublecross, and Bowie cooly counters with a hidden knife to Goldie’s throat. What’s particularly noteworthy about this, otherwise Tarantino-like scene, is that Bowie allows himself to shake with fear after the confrontation has been diffused.
Like most buddy gangster pictures, where the guys have a very close bond, there’s always an element of homoerotic subtext lingering beneath the surface. From Butch and Sundance to the boys of Good Fellas, this film doesn’t stray from that underlying notion. Terry pleads and begs Ray not to leave, causing havoc amongst the Asian alliance to draw Ray back in, as well as, finally resorting to beating up Ray’s girlfriend. Other cliché gangster elements used in this film involve the drive-by, indiscriminate spray of gunfire on the opposing gang, and an innocent friend of the hoodlums being drawn into the crossfire of calamity. A very controlled and intense scene involves Terry and an entire hilltop of his gun-toting comrades squaring off against the Chinese organization in an open field.
The main drawback to the movie concerns Ray’s desire to join his friends in a techno dance band, with scenes that sometimes come across like outtakes from “Krush Groove.” But for a standard gang action picture, “B.U.S.T.E.D.” manages to adequately deliver on the requisite story points.
© 2000 Ned Truslow