After Heaven Knows What, I was so curious to see what Safdies would do next, and then to hear that they were gonna bring their fresh, almost verite approach to a pure genre film... I was amped for that.
Turns out that "that" is something gritty, detail-oriented, with interesting characters sketched vividly but also with a sort of low-key naturalism. The film is propulsive for most of its run-time. When it slows down it gives you indelible moments.
Pattinson is absolutely magnetic as the protagonist, a fascinating mix of love, desperation, primal instinct, and schemes, and the final shot of him in this film is, man, it's incredible. Perhaps my favorite shot in a movie so far this year.
DP Sean Price Williams kills it with this. There is a lot of handheld so that might be a turn-off for some but this is what the Safdies do. And the film also gives us wonderful tracking and overhead shots, really memorable stuff. The use of natural light is beautiful and on occasion it feels like certain settings were chosen to provide a reason for some gorgeous, lurid lighting. Michael Mann fans will dig this movie.
Narratively, this is actually a pretty restrained film. It's a thriller where not a single shot is fired. The energy comes from Pattinson and the aesthetic. There is a sort of bleak humor to the proceedings. It's nothing like After Hours in so many ways and yet the backbone of it is similar. It's a black tragicomedy of errors, a NY night odyssey that starts off as a mission of love but only goes more and more sour.
As far as the soundtrack, there is a reason it won that award at Cannes. I've always liked Oneohtrix Point Never's stuff but this might be my favorite thing by him yet. Intricate synth work, pulpy guitars, and that credits song with Iggy Pop is pure gold. The music adds a lot to the experience of the film.
Again, Michael Mann fans need apply. I'd say this is the best movie of its ilk since Drive.
Safdies are working with Scorsese on a Diamond District project. Can't wait.