With over-the-top action, violence, and a touch of humor, DUST UP is a modern-day grindhouse film that leaves the audience rooting, wretching, and wishing for more. The film, directed by Ward Roberts, is full of homages to films from the 70’s and 80’s and takes the audience for a ride that will be scorched into their brains for a long time to come. Roberts didn’t make a perfect film, but he made a film that’s fun and moves forward at breakneck speed.
DUST UP follows cycloptic loner ex-marine Jack (Aaron Gaffey), who’s moved to the desert to escape his past and live a simpler life of peace, his only friend a Native-American hipster sidekick Mo (Devin Barry). On a routine handyman gig Jack meets Ella (Amber Benson), the beautiful wife of a meth addicted drug hustler Herman (Travis Betz). Things quickly take a turn when Herman runs afoul of Buzz (Jeremiah Birkett), a cannibalistic drug lord that runs a local bar and has the law in his pocket. Once the introductions are made in DUST UP, the film takes off in a barrage of sex, violence, and humor.
It’s easy to forget that this film is also somewhat of a comedy. The frantic pacing of DUST UP coupled with the gore and violence can sometimes mask the jokes and witty banter throughout the flick. It should certainly be noted that the script, also done by Roberts, is really well done. The concept of the film just plain works and the writing is solid overall. The biggest stand out in regards to the script is Buzz’s character. Roberts wrote a truly evil man, with evil intentions, and the polar opposite to Jack’s character. He made an antagonist that definitely matches up to, and sometimes exceeds the means of his protagonist, which inherently creates tension and conflict without the introduction of any of the other characters or situations. This alone is enough to warrant critical praise. The supporting characters are just as well thought out as the main characters. None of them truly fall into stereotypes, nor do they intentionally buck them.
The cinematography in this film is hit or miss. Most of the shots are framed well, decently lit (if overexposed and over-colored to accentuate the grindhouse feel of the movie), with the only gripe being that their fish-eye lens got way more of a workout than it should have. There were a few times that distortion from the lens could be seen in the shots which can take an audience out of the moment. It’s pure technical screw up that maybe was unnoticeable during the shoot but surely should have been corrected in post. While DUST UP has a style all it’s own maybe a better mash-up would have been their cinematography style paired a little with what was done in BELLFLOWER. That said, the blood and gore effects were really well done. Definitely attention should be given to their makeup and effects team for putting together such a visceral look to many of the actors in the film.
The acting is solid all around. With veterans like Amber Benson (ONE-EYED MONSTER, STRICTLY SEXUAL) and Ezra Buzzington (“Justified”) rounding out the cast, DUST UP’s entire cast really brings Ward Roberts world together. While the Buzz character is a maniacal, egotistical, psychopath Jack’s character is cool, methodical, and peaceful. Both actors really play up the intensity of their characters and the tension they create throughout the flick really works and even affects how the other characters around them are perceived.
To reiterate, it’s definitely not a movie for everyone. The blood and gore, and some of the subject matter might turn off a lot of people, but the script is solid, the pacing rockets you through the flick, and the performances keep you interested in the story. Overall it’s a really good flick with a few technical issues but most certainly deserves at least one cursory viewing with friends.
DUST UP Review
FILM SYNOPSIS - A former vigilante who has embraced his peaceful nature comes to the aid of a young mother in trouble with a cannibalistic drug lord.