Good Time (15)
Robert Pattinson has well and truly put his pretty boy, teen heart-throb days behind him in the ironically titled, gripping crime thriller Good Time, the latest film by dynamic, US indie filmmakers, brothers Josh and Benny Safdie.
Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a tough, exploitative, small-time criminal and gives a compelling, stand-out performance — one that surely must be an awards contender.
Set in the mean streets of Queens, New York, Connie enlists the help — in a bank robbery— of his vulnerable, younger brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), who has learning difficulties. The heist goes wrong, landing Nick in prison.
What follows is an adrenaline-fuelled, frenetic and relentless night, driven by Connie’s desperate efforts to get his brother out of jail.
The glittering lights and wealth of Manhattan glimpsed in the opening frame are a tease. Connie’s twisted nocturnal odyssey takes him through the city’s dark and violent underbelly, bringing him into contact with a case of mistaken identity and drug dealers. Events also take a particularly bloody turn in a closed amusement park. This gritty, urban landscape is a place of bail-bond agencies, fast-food restaurants and low-lifes.
There are also unexplored racial undertones. Connie and Nick wear blackface latex masks when they rob the bank, but this is never questioned.
Connie shamelessly inveigles his way into the home of an African American grandmother and her teenage granddaughter, abusing their good will and later, an innocent black security guard becomes one of Connie’s casualties. It’s a subtle motif about the African American experience as victims and assumed culprits of crime in US society.
The story twists and turns at a breathtaking pace, supported by a pounding and persistent synthesized score. Intrusive close-ups fill the screen and the erratic hand-held camera work contributes to the tension and cycle of chaos.
Connie is one messed-up guy but his love for his brother and his desire to protect and save him appear to be genuine. It is this that somehow makes us root for him.
He can be charming and “has a way with dogs” but, at the same time, is ruthless, disingenuous and manipulative. “You’re the bane of my existence,” whines his hapless girlfriend, brilliantly played by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Connie tries to dupe the bail money from her. His sweet-talking of a holiday and escape to Costa Rica are just a ruse, and one that her controlling mother sees right through.
There is little respite and watching Good Time is a little like going on a fairground ride: terrifying, unpredictable and exhilarating all at once and, by the time it gets to the desperate and heartbreaking finale, completely wrung out.