Bomb the System

Bomb the System is a drama film written and directed by Adam Bhala Lough, which was released to film festivals in 2002 and American theaters in 2005. It revolves around a group of graffiti artists living in New York City who decide to make a mark on the city, and stars Mark Webber, Gano Grills, Jaclyn DeSantis, Jade Yorker, Bönz Malone, Kumar Pallana and Joey SEMZ. Bomb the System was the first major fictional feature film about the subculture of graffiti art since Wild Style was released 1982.[2] Several well-known graffiti artists participated in the making of the film including Lee Quinones, Cope2 and Chino BYI. The film's score and soundtrack were composed by El-P.

Bomb the System
Promotional movie poster
Directed byAdam Bhala Lough
Produced byBen Rekhi
Sol Tryon
Written byAdam Bhala Lough
StarringMark Webber
Jaclyn DeSantis
Gano Grills
Jade Yorker
Music bySebastian Demian
Ethan Higbee
International Friends
CinematographyBen Kutchins
Ben Rekhi
Edited byJay Rabinowitz
Distributed byPalm Pictures
Release date
Running time
91 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish / Hindi
Box office$15,520[1]

In January 2004 the film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.[3]

Brief history

The film was produced for US$500,000, expanded from the director's thesis project at NYU. The director, producer, cinematographer, and other key members of the crew had recently graduated from NYU and this was their first film. The film played at over 26 film festivals on four continents and was first offered distribution by Now on Media in Japan after the company's president saw a 1-minute clip at the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards. The film received a wide theatrical release in Japan and extensive press coverage.[4] Palm Pictures distributed the film in the US and gave it a limited 2-theater release in New York City and Los Angeles on May 27, 2005. Palm decided not to open the film wider despite positive reviews in The New York Times, LA Times, Variety, Rolling Stone, and The Village Voice and a per-screen average gross of US$4,588.[5] The film was released on DVD October 8, 2005.[6]

Critical response

Rolling Stone called the film a "next-gen [sic] update of 1982's Wild Style. With strong whiffs of Trainspotting and Kids" that "distinguishes itself with streaky, Krylon-bright editing and El-P's eerie soundtrack beats."[7] Village Voice noted the movie was "birthed from a blunt-fueled blend of Aronofskian frenzy and nostalgia for the agreeable griminess of mid-'90s Wu-Tang Clan videos."[8] Los Angeles Times critic Kevin Crust wrote, "Lough's impressive, if uneven, debut feature captures the adrenaline rush and contradictory nature of the simultaneously creative and criminal activity."[9] The New York Times review was the most positive: "The movie runs on the synergy between this grimy but glamorous urban landscape and the emotional intensity of characters who at moments suggest contemporary descendants of the innocent, tormented teenagers in Rebel Without a Cause. Bomb the System, which rides on a subtle hip-hop soundtrack, might be described as soulful pulp; cult recognition awaits it."[10]

The negative reviews were mainly scathing. The New York Post called the film "a mild, slow-moving drama that belatedly tries to argue that graffiti writers are political artists, not an urban blight"; The New York Daily News called the film "brashly passionate in its desire to express the power and validity of graffiti art. But it's also preachy and single-minded, populated by a world of sympathetic heroes and hissable villains"; and Sean Axmaker in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer likened the film to "tomcats spraying outside their yards."[11]

Jim Jarmusch wrote, "For Bomb the System director Adam Lough takes far more inspiration from the on-going graffiti culture than from the depleted stylistic formulas of recent commercial cinema. His refreshing use of skewed camera angles, blasts of color, and inventive cutting are deftly blended, becoming much more than calculated atmosphere. The performances are also consistently strong, and Mark Webber in particular, in the central role, never hits a false note. Bomb the System is welcome proof that the spirit of graffiti writing has a continuing cultural influence on both the subtleties of form and explosive personal expression." Parts of the quotation ran in a Village Voice ad on the second weekend of the film's release.

Sticker controversy

Shortly after the theatrical release, a movie theater in Delaware was closed down after a promotional Bomb the System sticker was found illegally posted in the theater. Due to fear of terrorism, the theater manager called the police and bomb squad and the theater was shut down for a few hours while the canine unit sniffed for bombs. Nothing was found.[12] In all actuality, "Bombing" has nothing to do with actual explosives in graffiti terminology - "to bomb" is graffiti slang for covering a surface with graffiti.[13]


  1. "Bomb the System (2005)". Box Office Mojo. 2005-06-16. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  2. "Bomb the System Director: Adam Bhala Lough @ 149st". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  3. "IFP Independent Spirit Awards 2004 - Nominees and Winners". 2013-07-16. Archived from the original on 2013-10-18. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  4. "キャッシング審査比較システム". Archived from the original on 2013-10-19. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  5. "Box Office Mojo : Bomb the System".\accessdate=2013-10-17.
  6. "Bomb the System (2002) : Release Info". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  7. "Movie Reviews and Ratings from Peter Travers | Rolling Stone Movies". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  8. "Film - Page 1 - Movies - New York". Village Voice. 2005-05-17. Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  9. "Entertainment - entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood - -". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  10. "The New York Times > Movies > Movie Review | 'Bomb the System': An (Illegal) Artist Determined to Make His Presence Known". 2005-05-27. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  11. "Limited movie runs: 'Brothers,' 'Bomb the System' and more". 2005-06-23. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  12. "Film title sticker causes alarm, closes theater". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  13. Archived October 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
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