With “Good Time” Robert Pattinson may finally have put a stake through the heart of his most famous character. The man formerly known as “Twilight’s” sexy vampire sheds Edward Cullen’s glittery to play the reckless brother of an imprisoned man. The former heartthrob has taken creative risks before in his work with David Cronenberg but with the gritty “Good Time” has finally found the kind of critical reaction his ex co-star Kristen Stewart has been basking in for years since their franchise flew off into the night.
The action in “Good Time” stems from two brothers, Nik and Constantine Nikas, played by co-director Ben Safdie and Pattinson respectively. They live with their grandmother, but fledgling criminal Connie’s main job is looking out for Nik who struggles with a learning disability. “It’s just you and me,” Connie says. “I’m your friend. Alright?”
The ill-advised bank robbery goes south when a paint bomb hiding in the cash explodes covering them in red dye and landing Nik in jail. Connie plots to get raise the $10,000 bail needed to spring his brother out of Rikers Island hospital. “I’ve got to get him out of there before something bad happens,” says Connie. “He could get killed in there.” As the night grows longer Connie’s situation becomes complicated and dangerous.
Co-directors Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie are not action directors. They shoot in tights close ups, building tension instead with a propulsive electronic score by Oneohtrix Point Never (a.k.a. Daniel Lopatin) mixed with tightly edited visuals. The result is anxiety inducing, occasionally darkly funny and unrelentingly grim. There is an “After Hours” vibe to “Good Time”—the action takes place in one evening escalating with every passing moment—but it’s violent and intense, the opposite of a feel good movie.
Pattinson embodies every scuzzy synapse of Connie. Nonviolent, kind hearted even—“ You’ve got to change this. I don’t want to see them justify this,” he says after watching a TV show were police violently take down a suspect.—but dangerous Connie is compelling because of his desperation. As the situation spirals out of control Connie, driven by need to protect his brother, makes mistake after mistake.
You can practically smell him cigarette breath and flop sweat in a career high that really captures the late night desperation of a man on a mission.
Also strong in a role that amounts to little more than an extended cameo, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Connie’s girlfriend, an hysterical woman just a step or two away from the reality of the situation. In her brief time on screen she makes an impression, adding to the story’s chaotic feel.
“Good Time” is the movie equivalent of a panic attack, nasty around the edges and rattling to the brain.