Robert Pattinson’s latest film is an excruciatingly long indie thriller directed by Ben and Josh Safdie that’s somehow just 100 minutes long. Pattinson stars as Connie Nikas, a criminal with a learning disabled brother named Nick (who happens to be played by Ben Safdie). When he accidentally gets his brother imprisoned on Rikers Island, Connie sets out to get $10,000 bail money, and so begins a very long night of escalating fiascos.
The film is shot without a steadicam, largely told within a claustrophobic and grainy series of close-ups and mid close-ups, rarely breaking to occasional aerial shots of the streets. As Connie fumbles from one way to another to get money, he encounters many quirky sounding locals in New York, and it feels like a docu-drama showcasing the Safdie’s acquaintances. You realise how much you take for granted how cool actors are trained to sound, and it adds to an increasing sense of irritation and tedium, compounded by a janky, loud electronic score that contributes to a feeling of nausea.
Contributing to the general boredom are the lack of witty lines, instead we’re subjected to a never-ending series of f-bombs, as the absurd sequence of events are intended as our sole source of laughs. I wanted to wash out Connie’s mouth with soap, which doesn’t make him any more sympathetic. In fact, it’s like the Safdies set out to create the nastiest possible protagonist, as he almost commits statutory rape and lets two black people get wrongfully arrested during his quest for cash. He’s selfish and irresponsible, never considering what it may actually take to get Nick out of prison.
There are cameos from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi, who are wasted to say the least. Pattinson shares most of his screentime with newcomers Buddy Duress and Taliah Webster; the former resembles a weedier Jon Bernthal, and gets saddled with most of the irritating f-bombs, while Webster is probably the film’s best part. In fact, I wish the film had been about her. Ben Safdie is pretty good pretending to be the disabled Nick, properly conveying the physical heft and emotional vulnerability many disabled people have. It’s just a shame that he didn’t focus on the screenwriting and sound editing instead.
Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam