By now, Robert Pattinson shouldn’t have to prove he can act. Cosmopolis, The Rover, Maps to the Stars and The Lost City of Z – they all show that his brooding Twilight days have passed into teen-movie myth. But if doubters still need proof, check out the Pattinson tour de force in Good Time. The title makes the movie sound like a romp. Instead, it’s a hellish ride through a New York night. As directed by the Safdie brothers, Josh and Benny, the movie rips through 100 minutes of screen time like Wile E. Coyote with his tail on fire. It’s electrifying.
Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a small-time crook with a protective love for his mentally-challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie). It’s Connie who breaks his sibling out of a psych ward and tries to build his self-confidence by using him in a Queens bank robbery. Both wear hoodies and rubber masks; both beat a hasty retreat once they’ve secured the loot. But if you’ve seen the Safdie brothers strut their stuff in films like Heaven Knows What and Daddy Longlegs, you know that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Working from a script by Josh Safdie and actor/longtime collaborator Ronnie Bronstein, Good Time makes an explosive combination of suspense and laughs. The pace intensifies without mercy (big shout-outs to Daniel Lopatin’s thumping score and Sean Price Williams’ prowling camera) as the NYPD grabs Nick. Connie cooks up a plan to grab him back. Imagine the Marx Brothers in a Tarantino movie and you get the picture.
After failing to squeeze bail money out of his older girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the desperate crook turns to Ray (Heaven Knows What actor Buddy Duress), a speed-talking parolee with access to liquid LSD that they hope to turn into cash. Duress is a primo scene-stealer – and he’s still trumped by the dynamite Taliah Webster as Crystal, a black teen with a practical interest in sex and a passion for reality cop shows. Connie is repulsed: “I don’t wanna see them justify this shit.”Through a series of misadventures, they all end up at a shut-down amusement park where a security guard, played by Captain Phillips Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi, upsets their plans for a quick fix.
It’s a wild, whacked-out ride that cements the reputation of the Safdies as gutter poets with a flair for tension that won’t quit. But it’s a never-better Pattinson who gives the film soul and a center of gravity. The actor invests Connie with a devotion to his brother that never slips into fake sentiment. There’s not an ounce of Hollywood fat in Good Time. It comes at you hard.