Dust Up (2012)

Description (from dustupfilm.com):
A one-eyed vigilante (Gaffey) with a dark past has vowed to change his ways, trading his machine gun for a yoga mat. But when he encounters a beautiful young mother (Benson) in deep trouble with a cannibalistic drug lord and his evil goons, he realizes that justice must be served. Teamed up with his smooth-talking Native American hipster sidekick, our hero rides into the badass brawl of the century.

Major Cast:
Amber Benson as Ella, Jeremiah W. Birkett as Buzz, Aaron Gaffey as Jack, Devin Berry as Mo, Travis Betz as Herman, Al Burke as Mr. Lizard, John Kayrus as Cookie, Ezra Buzzington as Sheriff Haggler

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Behind the Scenes: “Find the Pony,” Interviews & Footage During the Making of DUST UP, Audio Commentary with Amber Benson & Ward Roberts, Sneak Preview at San Diego Comic Con to Crowd Acclaim!, and More

Written and Directed by Ward Roberts

When a DVD release proclaims things like “Hot New Genre: Grindhouse Western!” and “Warning: This Film Will Kick Your A**!” it’s hard not to go into viewing it a bit cynical.  Really: kick my ass?  That’s a tall order.  And grindhouse western?  Hmm.  I try not to go into movies with preconceived ideas about what I am about to watch, but sometimes that can be hard.  Before I started watching DUST UP, I was pretty much expecting to be let down.  I’m happy to say that I wasn’t let down at all, as a matter of fact: far from it.

We’re here, we’re on a mini-trike, and we’re gonna kick your ass.

DUST UP starts out on full blast right from the beginning.  There is a sweet opening title sequence that firmly establishes right away that DUST UP has style to spare.  After the titles, it becomes readily apparent that while DUST UP is a low budget film, it is a very well made film with some strong production values.  The video is obviously HD and very crisp and well shot, the 5.1 Surround Sound is right on the money, and just about everything else about the movie really makes it feel much higher budget than I suspect it truly is.

Is DUST UP really a “western”?  It’s kinda tough to place it firmly within that genre.  Sure, it’s out in the desert, and sure, there’s a Native American sidekick, and sure, it’s a story about a man with a troubled past that is called on to do something good with his present, so I guess you could call it a western if you wanted to.  However, there are no horses, no cowboy hats (pretty much), and no duel at high noon.  Thematically it is a western, but as far as the operation goes, it’s much more firmly in the grindhouse territory… except that it’s not REALLY that either.  The story has drugs and violence, it has quirky characters and odd situations, so again thematically it could be called a grindhouse film, but it really has a lot of factors that stray away from being able to call it as such.  First off – and this is a big one when it comes to grindhouse films – there is almost no nudity and very little sex in the film.  There are a few scenes where Buzz is having sex with people, and there are some boobs (72 minutes into the 92 minute film!), but it is very lacking in the sleazy sexiness that you would generally expect in a film labeled as grindhouse.  Now, saying all that about how it’s not really a “grindhouse western,” does this make it in any way a bad or unentertaining film?  Not at all. DUST UP rocks.  It’s just not exactly what it is proclaimed to be.

Mo and Jack, debating life in the desert whilst throwing bean bags.

DUST UP is the story of Jack, whom I did not really get being a “vigilante” at all.  Jack was a Marine, and like many Marines in wartime, saw and did things that haunt him.  He now lives out in the desert, working as a handyman, and is companion to the whitest Native American ever.  Really: the dude wears gym socks, Chuck Taylor’s, and a sweatband… with a feather attached.  Jack gets a call from Ella, a struggling mother also living out in the middle of nowhere, whose pipes are clogged with mud (that’s not a euphemism).  Upon meeting her, he quickly becomes entangled in the young woman’s life, or more specifically in her husband Herman’s life.  Herman is a speed freak in debt to the local bisexual psychopathic drug dealer and his debt has come due.  Because of Jack’s past failings, he feels the need to step in and keep this family from becoming separated, and therefore becomes the semi-reluctant hero of DUST UP.  I’m not going to go more into the plot, because this is one of those movies you really just need to watch and discover for yourself.

Buzz shows Jack just how batshit crazy he really can be.

The biggest asset DUST UP has going for it is the incredibly strong backbone the script provides.  The film is full of snappy, witty dialogue (but not to the point of excess), it has fun plot twists that aren’t telegraphed, and it overall has a strong hero’s journey and that can carry some of the most messed up stories admirably when done well.  On top of the strong script, DUST UP has some of the best overall performances of any low budget film I’ve seen in a while.  Every single major player is awesome in their renditions of their characters; from the nonchalant coolness of Mo to the off the wall psychosis of Buzz, everyone puts in damned fine work.  It’s not often I see a low budget film sent to me where there’s not at least someone in the major cast (at least, when the major cast is more than just a couple of people) that screws the pooch on the acting front.  Every performance in DUST UP is very strong, and the main characters of Jack, Mo, Ella and Buzz are especially so.  When you add to the above the very appealing visuals of the movie – from the camera movement and composition of the shots to the comic book-esque color correction full of bright primary colors – DUST UP is just a winner all around.

One of the many very visually appealing shots in DUST UP.

There was very little to be disappointed with in DUST UP.  My biggest issues with the movie come from some of the effects, and a little bit of the plot.  On the effects, the majority of the physical gore effects were really well done and cartoonishly inflated to the point of humor, but occasionally there were bits that were a little sub-par to the rest of the playing field.  My biggest effects complaint was not with the physical effects, but the visual effects.  When Buzz’s bar explodes, the visual effects on that scene really just throw up one of the only red flags that DUST UP isn’t a big budget production (other than the overall lack of “stars” in the cast).  The explosion and later burning of the bar just look so amateur in comparison to the rest of the film that they really kinda hurt to watch.  As far as the plot goes, by the end of the film there are some bits (and I’m not going to ruin anything for you by going into detail here) that just go a bit too far over the top, are a bit too much, and really just made it feel like DUST UP was trying a bit too hard to be weird.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about DUST UP.  It was an incredibly fun, funny, out there picture that does a lot of things that big budget movies would never do, but it does them in a way that makes you easily believe DUST UP could be a big budget picture.  By far, this is one of the best films (easily in the top two) that I have ever seen released through Breaking Glass Pictures.  I enjoyed it so much that I am going to go out and buy myself a copy, and I hope to hell that Breaking Glass gives it a Blu-Ray release so I can see it in the true HD glory that I suspect it was shot in.

Overall 9 / 10

DUST UP on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1991034/

DUST UP for sale: http://www.shop.breakingglasspictures.com/Dust-Up-BGP334.htm

DUST UP site: http://dustupfilm.com/

Dust Up (2012)
Theatrical Poster
Dust Up (2012)
DVD Cover

 

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