'Bomb City': A true Texas crime story pits punks against preps in '90s Amarillo (B+)

The Outsiders gave us the Greasers and the Socs, locked in eternal battle from opposite sides of the tracks. Bomb City gives us the Punks and Preps. It also gives us a tense, finely observed Texas crime drama, produced on a tight budget and suggesting great promise for its Dallas-based filmmakers.

The film is based on an incident that occurred in Amarillo in 1997. The teens in town, be they high school football players or punk rockers, are restless, bored and angry. They blow off steam in the usual ways — beer, parties, cruising through the night, and the occasional "You want some of this?" argument that holds the inevitability of violence. When that violence arrives full on, the results are chaotic and cataclysmic, and they leave one young man dead in a parking lot. (If you followed the case you know the specifics; if you didn't, you're better off going in cold).

Indeed, one of the things Bomb City does well is take its time revealing who the victim is, and how the seething tension veered into death. The film is built around a jury trial in which the defense attorney (Dallas native Glenn Morshower) is intent on demonizing the punk lifestyle, from the band names to the styles to the anarchic underpinnings. Meanwhile, the lengthy flashbacks dramatize hostilities between the punks and the jocks. One deftly edited sequence juxtaposes a raging mosh pit with the Friday night ferocity of a football game that doesn't go too well for the home team. There's a lot of excess testosterone pumping in Bomb City, and the available outlets, for all their drama, aren't enough to sooth the snarling beast.

Director/co-writer Jameson Brooks, an Amarillo native, lets the kettle rise to a boil, all the while shading in the two main players. Dave Davis plays Brian, a soulful punk with a towering Mohawk. Luke Shelton is Cody, an undersize football player with a chip on his shoulder. As is often the case in towns where football is king, the players can do no wrong in the eyes of the authorities. The punks? They can do no right. Bomb City is about what happens to those who don't look or think the way conformity demands.

Cinematographer Jake Wilganowski highlights the town's lonely, sparsely lit streets and sidewalks, but also conjures stark urban vistas of everyday beauty. The score, composed by Cody and Sheldon Chick, builds to an immersive sense of dread. Bomb City won the Audience Award at last year's Dallas International Film Festival, and it's not hard to see why. It's a spiky and assured piece of filmmaking, polished but raw in all the right ways.

Bomb City (B+)

Not rated (language, violence, sexual content). 95 mins. At the Alamo Drafthouse Cedars.

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