Dust Up


Billy Jack meets Rob Zombie meets John Waters in this trippy, gory, not-as-fun-as-it-should-be genre mash-up from writer-director Ward Roberts. In the California High Desert, a war-haunted, one-eyed Iraq vet named Jack (Aaron Gaffey) lives in a trailer alongside his friend Mo (Devin Barry), a faux Native American (he’s white and probably from the suburbs). Trouble comes when Jack tries to help Ella (Amber Benson), a new mother whose meth-addicted husband is in debt to Buzz (Jeremiah Birkett), a Messianic drug dealer whose “House of Buzz” bar is party central for a band of hippie-dippie addicts. Jack’s reasoned attempt to buy Ella’s husband some time leads to a comically bloody bar fight, but when Buzz kills a corrupt local sheriff, ejaculates on him, and later forces his drug-crazed disciples to eat the body, the film stops being fun. Or so it seemed to this viewer. There’s definitely an audience for Roberts’s brand of cinematic nihilism, and the skillfully filmed Dust Up might find a cult following, but its good-guy/bad-guy imbalance may prove fatal. As embodied by a ferociously committed Birkett, Buzz is too overwhelming a villain, and Jack too weak a hero. As rage-repressed war vets go, he’s a total wuss.