The premise of the story is vague and there seems to be a couple different plot lines. First, a pimp and one of his girls are trying to get out of the slums. He pimps her out to a crime boss whose into S&M. That boss and his syndicate are trying to destroy the slums in a crooked construction scheme. For labor, the syndicate enslaves the city's population of mentally disabled homeless. Meanwhile, two rival gangsbands drag race, fight, and crash each other's gigs to dominate the punk rock scene. The rivals are also fighting against the police because, well, you know, it's the police.
Burst City uses a lot of shaky hand-held camera-work. Not because they were going for some aesthetic effect but because it's cheap. In much the same way, there is an overall lack of lighting. Burst City jumps between plot lines and characters spending little time establishing either. The combination results in a movie that has the potential to be very confusing, if not incoherent.
In all honesty, I've seen this one and a half times. A few years ago, I attempted to watch it but I was too sleepy. I couldn't concentrate. This time I watched it on a flight from Baton Rouge to Lincoln. Unfortunately, I was a little sleepy this time too. I zoned out for just a minute and when I zoned back in, some character (I didn't know who) was killed (somehow) by someone (probably the syndicate) and, in response, the two rival gangs started fighting each other. The character was never mentioned again so I don't think it was that important.
"80's Japanese Sci-fi Punk Rock Musical, need I say more?" I wanted that to be my bottom line but I thought it might be a little misleading. Sometimes it can be fun to get together with some friends, get some pizza, and put on a low budget movie. But when you do that, you ought to choose a movie that is easy to watch. After all, the focus is hanging out with friends. This won't work if you try it with Burst City. It may just be a little too much to simply throw on the TV. That said, I give it a 4.55 because of its spirit.
From what I've read, Burst City was created by a couple punk bands who wanted to put out a movie featuring their music. The film's potential shortcomings are necessary evils when you consider this motivation. They didn't have the budget for smooth sophisticated cinematography or lighting but so what? They wanted to make a movie and they did it. It also helps that the music is awesome.
After watching this movie, I got into a punk rock mood so I re-watched the big budget, mainstream, Brass Knuckle Boys which is about a punk band from the 80's reuniting and rediscovering punk. Speaking of Brass Knuckle Boys, looking over my posts, it seems I never wrote a review about it. I will post that soon as well. Anyway, I am working on a post the compares and contrasts the depiction of punk rock in Burst City and Brass Knuckle Boys. In the meantime, I would recommend Burst City particularly if you are a fan of punk rock; it is a cool movie.
Review by Gregory Porter from the Internet Movie Database.