Anthony Blest (Mark Webber) is one of the most talented and notorious graffiti artists in New York City. Despite the tragic loss of his older brother during a nightly 'bombing' foray with a graffiti crew, Anthony has the same insatiable addiction. With the other members of his crew, Anthony parties, shoplifts spray-paint and 'tags' virgin walls with his signature 'Blest.' He does his best to avoid run-ins with the cops and hostile rival crews, but he cant avoid the pressure from his mother to attend college, and from his girlfriend to leave New York with her. As tensions rise, a physical threat from the cops causes the crew to intensify their bombing excursions, calling an all out war on the city. When the inevitable confrontation happens, a tragedy results that pushes Anthony to make a decision that has even darker consequences.
To "bomb" is b-boy slang meaning to create graffiti. In Adam Bhala Lough's striking debut, the "system" is the NYPD's Vandal Squad. Anthony (Mark Webber, Broken Flowers) is a 19-year-old bomber--tag name "Blest"--with plans to go legit, like Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat back in the "wild style" 1980s, who went from New York's mean streets to its most exclusive galleries. Alas, both met tragic ends. Blest, too, appears to be on the fast track to artistic success...or personal decline. He may have skills, but he's also a thief and a drug user. When he meets the politically minded Alex (Jaclyn DeSantis), it seems he's finally found the angel he needs to guide him in the right direction. After all, he already lost his brother to the graffiti game. Alex wants him to run away with her, but that's easier said than done. Bomb the System is the kind of ambitious first feature where, despite the best of intentions, style trumps substance every time. That said, the look NYU grad Lough achieves--an impressionistic world of black skies, glowing lights, and saturated colors--helps his rather obvious message that crime doesn't pay go down with ease. The tragic tale gets a welcome boost from El-P's ominous instrumental score along with moody tracks from Schoolly D, Madvillain, and Radiohead. --Kathleen C. Fennessy