In “Good Time” Robert Pattinson proves his worth in this intense crime thriller

September 8, 2017

“Good Time” is a film that requires a bit of a preface. It isn’t a movie you’ve heard of. It isn’t a particularly pleasant or crowd pleasing film. Honestly, “Good Time” isn’t a good time. I can’t say I loved it, but in a summer dominated by duds like the fifth “Transformers” and the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Good Time” fills the void as a strong, mature film that boasts an incredible performance by Robert Pattinson and some generally spot-on direction.

Pattinson stars as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, who, after a botched robbery with his mentally handicapped brother Nick, must do everything in his power to free his now incarcerated brother. That’s pretty much the whole movie. We quickly meet Nick and understand his disability, cut to Nick and Connie robbing a bank, see Nick get arrested and Connie get away and then spend the remainder of the run time watching Connie try to get back to and free his brother. It’s a very 70’s premise, and would fit right into the era of gritty, quality dramas.

And there’s a real intensity in this semi-retro filmmaking. Directed by brothers Jonathan and Ben Safdie, the latter of whom plays Nick, the film leans on these extreme close-ups (as well as longer shots of Pattinson storming down a hallway). With the Safdie brothers, it’s rare that a frame will contain more than just an actor’s head, creating this sense of claustrophobia that’s thematically consistent but deeply unsettling. After all, Pattinson is constantly on the run, so it makes sense that he’d feel paranoid and cramped, and the filmmaking translates that tension very well, but again, that doesn’t mean it’s a good time.

I’d be remiss not to mention the quality lighting, which is a nice contrast to the gritty, claustrophobic aesthetic. As the film progress, the Safdie brothers have some fun lighting Pattinson’s face with weirder and weirder colors, and the film descends into very psychedelic situation by the third act.

My problem with “Good Time” is that Pattinson’s character isn’t very sympathetic, and he needs to be for this story to work. The audience needs to believe that Nick is in better hands with Connie than he is with the state therapist, and aside from one or maybe two scenes, there isn’t much evidence that Connie is very good at taking care of his brother. Connie does so many awful things throughout the film, including bringing his brother to the inciting bank robbery that he—at least in my mind—loses any moral justification for his actions. This isn’t the fault of Pattinson, but the writing, as Pattinson works overtime to make Connie seem rational and warranted, and nearly succeeds. The script just slightly pushes his character out of the audience’s sympathies, but that being said, Pattison’s actions are pretty morally ambiguous, and there’s nothing off about his performance.

Considering what Connie is trying to accomplish (escaping with his brother, an impossible feat) and just how despicable he is (which is sort of up for debate), the film sort of starts to feel like watching a rat trying to solve a maze that’s just a bit too complicated for its tiny brain. I can’t exactly recommend “Good Time” to anyone, and I didn’t love it, but if what I’ve described fits your acquired taste the film is certainly worth checking out. It’s made with a level of quality that’s increasingly hard to find these days, but it would be just as great at home on a laptop screen as in a theater.

“Good Time’s” real significance is that it definitively proves Robert Pattinson is way more than just a paranormal romance star, and has some serious dramatic chops. I’d love to see him in more roles along these lines, and I’m also going to be keeping an eye on the Safdie brothers. They have a handful of other feature films under their belt already (none of which I’m familiar with), and “Good Time” is easily their most mainstream success. I’m excited to see where Pattison and the Safdie brothers go next.

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