Robert Pattinson gives a career-best performance in the thrilling Good Time
Since catapulting into the A-list (and the hearts of teenage girls) with the Twilight series, Robert Pattinson has been on a mission. Rejecting mainstream leading roles, he has instead been quietly trailblazing across the independent film scene for the last five years; working with legendary auteurs (David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog) and indie darlings (James Gray, Brady Corbet), ranking up an impressive, eclectic array of supporting performances. Teaming up with New York directors the Safdie Brothers for the stylish, intense crime thriller Good Time, Pattinson might have just delivered his best performance yet.
Starting on a quiet note as mentally handicapped Nick (Benny Safie, also co-director) is introduced talking to his therapist, the slow pace doesn’t last long when Nick’s jailbird brother Connie (Pattinson) takes him away and convinces him to help in a bank robbery. When the robbery goes wrong, Connie manages to escape but vulnerable Nick is arrested and locked up in Ryker’s Island, where it becomes clear he’s in danger. Doing anything it takes to free his brother, Connie embarks on a wild night around New York, scheming and stealing as he collides with the forgotten underbelly of the city, including rich girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), security guard Dash (Barkhad Abdi), and alcoholic drug dealer Ray (Buddy Duress).
Clearly inspired by the 70s crime films of Sidney Lumet and Martin Scorsese, the Safdie brothers have created a down n’ dirty thriller that ranks as one of the most purely exciting caper movies in years. Refusing to slow down, Good Time reaches a note of desperate adrenaline and sustains it for 90 minutes as each of Connie’s plans momentarily succeed, then catastrophically fail. While Connie is not by any means a likable character (one particularly cruel act firmly plants him on the side of ‘villain’), his brotherly love and quick thinking make him a fascinating protagonist.
As Connie’s night goes from bad to worse, the Safdie brothers continue escalating the size and scale of the film, delivering incredible set pieces and plot turns. Best known for the low budget heroin odyssey Heaven Knows What, Good Time shows they retain their precision and energy working with bigger budgets and bigger names as they bring more thrills in any ten-minute stretch than most Hollywood blockbusters bring in two hours. Clearly adoring the weirdoes and misfits who inhabit their beloved city, the brothers are quite happy devoting precious minutes to exploring minor characters and narrative dead ends, all in the name of creating a realistic, grimly funny environment to set their antihero loose in.
Though Benny Safdie is perfectly solid in his relatively-minor role as the tragic Nick, Good Time is a true star vehicle for Pattinson. Though he’s been interesting in weird starring roles (Cosmopolis) and scene-stealing supporting performances (The Rover, The Lost City of Z), Connie is a character Pattinson really sinks his teeth into (forgive the Twilight reference). Constantly moving as he thinks on his feet, Pattinson’s wild eyes and harsh face reveal a man tired of being a fuck-up, while his relationship with his brother is genuinely moving; Connie tells Nick, “You’re incredible” before the robbery, but as the final scene so poignantly reminds us, everything Connie does is ultimately misguided.
Even without Pattinson, Good Time would be the most stylish thriller of the year. Scored to electronic perfection by Oneohtrix Point Never and directed by two brothers catapulting themselves into the mainstream, the film is vibrant and alive, never slowing down as it races to an inevitably-chaotic finish. While the Safdie brothers get great performances from professional and unknown supporting actors, it is Robert Pattinson who truly carries the film, giving the performance of a lifetime. For all the twists and turns Good Time takes, Pattinson’s performance is what lingers after the credits roll.
By Harry J. Ford
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