(directors: Josh and Benny Safdie; screenwriter: Ronald Bronstein/Josh Safdie; cinematographer: Sean Price Williams; editors: Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein; music: Oneohtrix Point Never; cast: Robert Pattinson (Constantine Nikas), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Corey Ellman), Rose Gregorio (Loren Ellman), Benny Safdie (Nick Nikas), Saida Mansoor (Agapia Nikas), Buddy Duress(Ray), Barkhad Abdi(Dash, park security guard), Taliah Webster (Crystal), Peter Verby (Peter, psychiatrist), Eric Paykert (Bail Bondsman), Gladys Mathon (Annie), Necro (Caliph), Hirakish Ranasaki (Trevor), Craig MuMs Grant (Denny the Acces-A-Ride Driver ), Evonne Walton (Bank Teller); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Sebastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, Jean-Luc de Fanti, Terry Douglas, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis; A24; 2017)

A violently hypnotic street-wise NYC crime thriller.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Sibling directors Josh and Benny Safdie (“Heaven Knows What”/”Lenny Cooke”) present a violently hypnotic street-wise NYC crime thriller, shot guerilla style as “cinema verite,” over the course of one strange night. The gripping script was written by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein. It opens with the mentally challenged Nick (Ben Safdie) being treated at a psych ward by a therapist (Peter Verby) over an incident with his abusive grandmother (Saida Mansoor), when his small-time career criminal brother Connie (Robert Pattinson, Brit actor from Twilight) bursts in and grabs his brother to bolt.

They then rob a bank in Flushing, Queens. The armed men with face masks walk out with a bag of money, but the dye packs go off. After chased by police when stopped for a search, Nick crashes through a glass door and is sent to Rikers Island prison. While watching TV with inmates, Nick’s pummeled by them over a dispute about changing channels and sent to Elmhurst Hospital. Connie tries to use the dyed stolen money to bail him out but the bail bondsman (Eric Paykert) tells him the money is dirty and can’t be used. Connie manipulates his confused girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to let him use her credit card to get the bail money, but her mom (Rose Gregorio) closes the account.

Desperate to get his slow-witted vulnerable brother out of prison, the only person in the world he cares about, the protective Connie sneaks him out of the hospital and has the Acces-A-Ride Driver (Craig MuMs Grant) drop him off by the house of a Haitian immigrant he doesn’t know but met at the hospital. Inside her house he realizes he freed the wrong person, Ray (Buddy Duress). When he finds out he’s taken a fuck-up talkative parolee who has scored liquid LSD he hid in an amusement park when the cops chased him and his drunken pals, in desperation Connie steals a car and convinces Ray, who was just released from prison, to take him to the park to get the acid and to sell it that night. Going along for the ride without knowing what’s going on, but looking forward to sex with the older white guy, is the 16-year-old rebellious black girl Crystal (Taliah Webster), who lives with her bossy granny (Gladys Mathon) in the house where Connie showed up. At the closed park, the men tangle with a security guard (Barkhad Abdi, Somali native from Captain Phillips) and a series of dangerous misadventures follows. It ends with a fitful tune by Iggy Pop that just about sums up the narrative.

Throughout the background is heard the catchy techno score by Daniel Lopatin. As an intense urban crime genre film (with hints of “Dog Day Afternoon” in its unlucky outsiders as subjects) it works well within its genre limits as it reaches for a fair share of cheap thrills and by being so efficiently engaging. It’s actually absorbing as a character study of an unlikable, one dimensional social pariah, whom you might not have much sympathy for as the anti-hero figure. The drama is fueled by the high-octane performance by Pattinson.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”