Review: 'Good Time', Robert Pattinson's Electrifying Night On The Mean Streets

After their powerful breakthrough film Heaven Knows What, Josh and Bennie Safdie are back with Good Time, another electric, gritty, street-level masterpiece. It's also the sibling duo's second straight film to feature a dynamic, breakout central performance, which is weird to say when you're talking about Robert Pattinson as the star. Of course he's been around for years, and has long since broken free of the manufactured image that held him down for so long. But Pattinson, sporting a scraggly beard, shifty eyes, and a burning hunger, has never been quite like this before.

Good Time is a grounded, sentimental, but high-energy twist on the "one wild night" conceit. Pattinson plays Connie, a petty crook and opportunity from Queens who would seem to be the sort who cares about nothing but himself. But it isn't true, as seen in the opening scene as his mentally-challenged brother Nick (played by Bennie Safdie) undergoes a therapy session with his doctor. Just as he seems to be making progress, Connie bursts in, angry, and "rescues" his brother. Connie thinks he's doing for Nick what is best, but as we see soon after, his idea of what's best is generally a really horrible idea.

Connie's not the sort of guy who thinks things all the way through. He's more of a "bull in the china shop" kind of guy. So when he and Nick pull off a bank job, and it goes off a little too well, Connie is too elated to think about the dye pack that's about to explode. A foot chase with the cops ensues, and while Connie gets away, Nick goes crashing through a plate glass window and is caught. He's sent to a brutal holding cell, the stuff of nightmares or MSNBC's prison block documentaries, and gets jacked up in a fight and sent to the hospital.

The Safdies' don't care that you barely have time to breathe between all of this happening; they keep the punishing pace right on going until you begin to feel the same manic energy coursing through Connie. In desperation to get his brother out of prison he partakes in all kinds of hair-brained schemes, finding success...or at least what he thinks is success until an unexpected twist pulls the rug out from under Connie and us. It's a perfectly played moment that could have been done just for laughs, but actually sends the film careening in an even crazier direction. Pretty soon Connie is getting mixed up with brassy teenaged girls (Talia Webster), and chasing a quick pay by selling a soda bottle full of liquid LSD.

Shit gets weird real quick, but the Safdies overcome the usual trap of the genre, the implausibility of escalating events, by rooting everything in Connie's mounting desperation. As he becomes more desperate, he gets more reckless, and he ropes in others who are equally reckless, which creates a cascading effect of impending disaster that is like watching cars revving up before a demolition derby. It's a genuine thrill, and a big part of it is that the Safdies, and Pattinson, never soften up on Connie's rough edges. He's as conniving as he is white-privileged, taking advantage of everybody around him to some degree. The opening bank heist finds him and Nick dressed up as black guys in hoodies; Connie brutally assaults an innocent security guard (Barkhad Abdi) just for getting in the way; and he has no qualms stomping around the home of a black grandmother (and the aforementioned teen) who put her neck out to help him. When he no longer needs these people he discards them like yesterday's news. The only one he won't do that to is Nick, and we find ourselves admiring his loyalty and hating just about everything else about him.

Set afire by the combination of Oneohtrix Point Never's sonic soundtrack and Sean Price Williams' searing 35mm visuals, Good Time is a treat for the senses. As it rages to an inevitably chaotic conclusion, we're left with a bittersweet reminder that Good Time is, at its core, a story about family and one's devotion to it.

Rating: 4 out of 5