Bomb City

Amarillo, Texas is America’s primary location for creating and dismantling nuclear weapons. That has earned it the name Bomb City, but bombs aren’t the only form of destruction to come out of the city. Bomb City is also a movie based on true events that happened in Amarillo in 1999.

From watching the movie, you would think that Amarillo is primarily populated by three groups of people: punks, jocks, and cops. All of them are assholes. All of them are unpleasant. None of them have much respect for the law. But where the jocks and the cops start from a position of violence and aggression, the punks are more hesitant and only seem to become violent if pushed into it. But that’s not necessarily obvious from the surface: their attire and appearance are definitely unconventional, their lyrics can be hostile, and their concerts often resemble some kind of full-contact sport.

But these punks are more into art than aggression. They’ve started the Dynamite Museum, a project to create and erect fake street signs with unusual messages, like “Road Does Not End”, “Choose Wisely”, or “Et tu, Brute!”. It’s unlikely that they’ve obtained official permission to erect the signs, and their artwork sometimes spills out into other avenues, like spray-painting the sides of buildings, but ultimately, they’re just trying to express themselves, and other people don’t like it. The police seem to treat them a lot more harshly than the jocks, and the jocks take a lot of pleasure in antagonizing them, verbally and physically. Eventually, this comes to a head, and there’s a confrontation that is the focus of the film.

All of these scenes are intermingled with a courtroom drama, in which we catch glimpses of a trial. It hints of what is to come, but it’s careful about how it reveals this information, so if you’re not familiar with the original story (and I wasn’t), you won’t necessarily know who’s on trial, why, and for what until the time that information is revealed in the narrative. It’s a rather clever way of presenting the information in a nonlinear fashion while still preserving some of the mystery for those who don’t already know about the real events that inspired the film. And while you certainly come away with an impression of those involved, your opinions of them may evolve over the course of the film.

Overall, the film seems very well made. It’s a relatively short 95 minutes, but even so, it does feel like it dawdles a bit on tangents that aren’t particularly essential to the storyline or understanding the main characters. The acting is good, and there are some impressive effects. A credit at the end states that some of the content may have been fabricated and some of the characters may be composites of multiple people, so there is room to question its accuracy, but it doesn’t appear to be obviously pushing an agenda, so if its goal is to manipulate audience opinion, it’s at least able to accomplish it with a fair amount of subtlety. While I don’t love everything about the movie, I admire what the filmmakers were able to pull off, and it’s well worth seeing if you get the chance.