Set in Amarillo, Texas in 1997, Bomb City tells the story of one night in the towns history that has failed to fade from the collective memory of those who lived there, continue to live there, and go on living with the knowledge that the justice system designed to protect its citizens and uphold moral standards so miserably failed.
Brian Deneke was a punk. He wore a mohawk, put on punk shows at a rundown venue where the film takes its name, and had a family who loved him, regardless of his appearance, ideals, and want to experience something greater than what Amarillo’s conservative confines would find acceptable. Cody Cates (a fictionalized name) was a jock. A football player, who also felt suffocated by the boredom that goes along with living a small town. Desperate for acceptance among his teammates and social clique, Cates was a restless individual who struggled to understand himself and the punks who were so different from him.
Not unlike other small towns across the nation, much less Texas, the punks and jocks were frequently at odds. Separated by appearance, taste in music, and personal feelings about life itself, these two factions rarely found common ground. Fueled by hormones and the perceived fundamental differences in lifestyles, these young men fought, verbally or physically, as an expression of their own desire to make sense of the life they were living and the society they either embraced or shunned.
But, on December 12, 1997, the animosity between these two groups in Amarillo, Texas culminated in a horrific murder. As an all-out brawl ensued between the two, Cates took to his fathers Cadillac and ran over Deneke in cold blood. When the incident goes to court, Cates is set free on probation and a fine that is later dropped. Deneke’s parents, family, and friends are left to choke on the impossible decision that defies any sense of what is right and wrong. Were both groups and individuals guilty of fighting? Absolutely. Did anyone deserve to lose their life? Absolutely not.
– watch the trailer –
Director Jameson Brooks presents these characters and the events leading up to that fateful night interspersed with scenes from the court room where punks are vilified based on their appearance and one lawyers conservative spin on what the punk lifestyle means. Beautifully shot, the film painstakingly examines both the punks and jocks. Deneke gets a little more background than the jock characters, but the groups are presented equally – showing that while they looked different on the surface, they both grappled with their youth and the expectations set upon them from their family, friends, and the town they lived in. Dave Davis (The Walking Dead, True Detective, Logan, The Big Short) gives a stunning performance as Deneke as both a vibrant and angry individual. Luke Shelton, as Cody Cates, possess an unflagging sense of restlessness and inner turmoil. Never confident, yet steadfast in his opposition to the Deneke and other punks, Shelton’s performance gets under your skin. The supporting cast does an excellent job of seeming like real people, not actors. Perhaps enhanced by the films approach that gives viewers a voyeuristic seat in the Amarillo theater where the events take place.
Bomb City is a film that is difficult to summarize. It seems that boiling it down to “preps” versus “punks” or “the system” versus “anti-establishment” minimizes the how complicated, dark, and provocative the film actually is. So many thoughts, questions, and presumptions-turned-revelations crossed my mind as I watched this film. Thinking that right off the bat I had figured this film out, I continually found more conflict. Conflict within myself as a viewer, conflict within the film among its characters.
The film is showing now at Alamo Drafthouse – Cedars in Dallas through the end of the month – ahead of it’s official theatrical and On-Demand release February 9th. You can pre-order the film on iTunes now.
– J. Kevin Lynch