Review: BOMB CITY (2017) 'an explosive film based on the 1997 death of Amarillo punk rocker Brian Deneke'


Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
Nov. 12, 2017 at 9:36 p.m.

Review: BOMB CITY (2017)
Dave Davis, Glenn Morshower, Logan Huffman, Henry Knotts, Maemae Renfrow, Luke Shelton, Eddie Hassell, Audrey Gerthoffer, Dominic Ryan Gabriel
Directed by Jameson Brooks

After directing several short films, Amarillo, Texas native Jameson Brooks makes his feature debut with the explosive “Bomb City.” The film is based on the 1997 true story of 19-year old Amarillo punk rock musician Brian Deneke who was intentionally killed by 17-year old jock Dustin Camp in a hit-and-run attack after a brawl broke out between the punk rockers and the “white-hatters,” a group of football jocks known for sporting white baseball caps. The captivating drama features a talented cast of young actors and stunning cinematography by Jake Wilganowski.

Brian Deneke (Dave Davis) defines the image of a punk rocker, green mohawk, studded collar, leather jacket. His look may scream anarchy, but Brian is also a sensitive human being, talented artist, and musician who spends his time performing at the local punk hangout, Bomb City which is also the nickname for Amarillo thanks to the Pantex nuclear weapon assembly and disassembly plant located 17 miles northwest of the city.

The population of Amarillo in 1997 was 170,352 but it resembled most conservative small Texas towns with a penchant for Friday Night Lights. During the offseason the local jocks and preps, known as white-hatters, would you use their pent-up energy to pick on the punk kids like Brian and King (Henry Knotts). Brooks establishes the growing tension between the two groups early on with a scene that takes place at the local fast food hangout, Mr. Frosty. King and his friends stop by for a late-night coffee where they encounter Cody Cates (Luke Shelton) and two of his jock buddies who are in a bad mood after losing the football game. Cody immediately begins to direct gay slurs at the punks which leads to an altercation between the groups in the parking lot stopping just short of violence.

There is a common misconception that all punk rockers are thieves or criminals. Brooks dispels that suspicion by showing how these boys are just like everyone else beneath all the piercings, tattoos, and clothing. Brian is seen bonding with his family, hanging out with his girlfriend Jade (Maemae Renfrow), and working on his art, mock traffic signs known as the “Dynamite Museum” under the guidance of famed artist Stanley Marsh 3, the man behind the Cadillac Ranch art exhibit which appears several times in the film.

“Bomb City” portrays the punk rockers as a misunderstood group trying to mind their own business. It may seem that Brooks and co-writer/producer Sheldon Chick go out of their way to paint the punks as righteous boys being terrorized by the white sons of Amarillo’s wealthiest citizens while the jocks are seen as one-dimensional bullies who live for football and fights. That may be an accurate representation according to the many articles written about the case plus the testimonials from family and friends. Both Brooks and Sheldon grew up in Amarillo and remember Brian’s story well.

The film’s climax takes place on Friday, December 12, 1997, in the parking lot of the Western Plaza Shopping Center where a violent brawl takes place between the jocks and the outnumbered punks. Chains, baseball bats, and fists are the weapons of choice as the two factions go it until Deneke is murdered by jock Dustin Camp who runs him over with his Cadillac while exclaiming “I’m a Ninja in my Caddy.” The graphic scene is tough to watch but Brooks felt it was necessary to demonstrate the brutality of Camp’s crime. Deneke’s story was featured on 20/20, Dateline NBC, MTV, and A&E.

From the fantastic opening shot of the Amarillo courthouse on a wintery Texas night, the atmosphere charged with tension, cinematographer Jake Wilganowski captures the intensity in the air that’s released in a ball of fury at a mosh pit, a football game, and the parking lots of Amarillo, Texas. The film looks stunning and this cast of young actors and newcomers do a fantastic job of telling Deneke’s tragic story. “Bomb City” is an explosive film that grips you from beginning to end. An impressive debut from Texas filmmaker Jameson Brooks.

(3 ½ stars)

Bomb City was screened at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival tonight. The film has won several awards including the Audience Award “Best Narrative Feature” at the Dallas International Film Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival. The official trailer drops on December 12 (the anniversary of Brian Deneke’s death) and the film opens in theaters and digital platforms on February 9, 2018.



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