Not your typical bank robbery film. That should come as expected as it is a Safdie Brothers film. Benny and Josh (Daddy Longlegs, Heaven Knows What) have built a reputation for making odd films. The way they construct their films and shoot them is hypnotizing. You are totally drawn in to the chaos. Close ups and tight shots dominate allowing you to feel the emotions and a part of what is going on. Intense.
Constantine Nikas (Robert Pattinson – Twilight, The Lost City of Z) is a degenerate. There is no other word for him. What else can be said about a guy who uses his obviously mentally unstable and devoted girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa) for her mom’s (Rose Gregorio – The Deep End of the Ocean, True Confessions) money and his deaf and mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) to help him commit a bank robbery. When the bank robbery goes wrong it is Nick who ends up in police custody while Constantine tries to stay one step ahead of the police while getting his brother out of jail.
All this happens over a crazy couple of days. From about the 10th minute on the action or tension keeps up at a high level. the Safdie Brothers do not try and disguise where their film is going. You know from almost the beginning this is going to be an uncomfortable ride. The bank robbery is going to be a disaster.
Robert Pattinson establishes himself as an actor here. Like Kristen Stewart because he was introduced in the uber popular Twilight series most wrote them off as just heartthrobs and not actual actors. Both have had, in the subsequent years, to fight against that. After the whole Twilight thing was done his work has been spotty. Really up and down in regards to quality. Here Pattinson shows what he can do. Whatever curveballs the script demands of him he is up to the task. Even manages to make you care what happens to this basically unlikable character. One moment we hate him while the next we find him endearing. Tricky ask for an actor.
Another great character of this film is the New York City borough of Queens. Not the most picturesque part of that great city, Queens, in all its dirt, grime and grayness, comes through courtesy the cinematography of Sean Price Williams (Queen of Earth, Thirst Street). The atmosphere created by the visuals really adds to the film. Plus leaves Queens off the list of places I want to see.
The Safdie Brothers have shown with the latest film that the indie world is still ripe with energy and ideas. Bursting at the seams (quietly at times) the film will remind many of Mean Streets, as it brings that same feel to the screen.