Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie
Watch Good Time online in the UK: Netflix UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Rakuten TV
From The Lost City of Z and The Childhood of a Leader to Cosmopolis, Robert Pattinson’s fascinating choice of roles post-Twilight reaches a thrilling peak with Good Time, a film that reinvents him almost as much as it reinvents itself.
Pattinson plays Connie, a New York criminal who is struggling to look after – and take advantage of – his brother, Nick, who has learning disabilities. From bullying and cajoling to encouraging and corrupting, it’s a relationship that’s as unhealthy as it is heartfelt, and it’s brought to life by two superb lead performances: Benny Safdie plays Nick with a naive, likeable, trusting air that contrasts horribly with Pattinson’s shifty sibling, who is always glancing at those around him to work out how best to manipulate them.
We tellingly open with Nick, rather than Connie, in a therapy session, only for Connie to burst in and whisk him away to a bank robbery. There’s a genuine loyalty and concern between them – and it’s that believable bond that powers the film forwards, from the heist that goes inevitably awry to the endless string of consequences that ensue.
There’s a dark sense of humour to the action, as Connie conducts his heist via unthreatening written notes, then winds up having to sneak into a hospital to break his brother out – partly an act of care, partly an act of self-preservation. By the time he ends up in a bail bonds office, and he’s attempting to badger his ish-girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh, having a whale of a time) into giving him money, things have become deliciously absurd, and Ronald Bronstein and Josh Safdie’s script only escalates from there, stacking up the peril in increasingly impossible scenarios (watch out for Captain Phillip’s Barkhad Abdi as a theme park security guard).
Robert Pattinson is magnetic throughout, his dishevelled heartthrob looks underpinning the darkly ironic nature of the title, which refers to time off jail sentences granted for good behaviour; not one second of Connie’s life here can be said to be good, with every step further down into New York’s underbelly accompanied by an intense, pulsating electronic soundtrack.
It’s a wonderfully nasty, grimy piece of cinema, steeped in the scuzziness of immoral deeds done in the dark – and the Safdies embrace that wholeheartedly, juggling unnerving tension, stylish visuals and warped humour (Taliah Webster, as a young girl caught up in Connie’s affairs, is effortlessly amusing) with the cruel ruthlessness of impromptu crime. It’s put together with a relentless energy and drive, so that every time you think this endless night might be over, something else comes along. Expertly paced and excitingly unpredictable, the result is a gripping, visceral thriller nails the simple pleasure of that all-too-rare sensation: from the first frame to the last, you simply never know what’s going to happen next. Strap in, stop trying to guess, and enjoy the ride.
Good Time is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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