Even when Robert Pattinson was slumming his way through the wretched “Twilight” saga, there was always the sense that a good actor was waiting to break out and show us that he was not just another pretty vampire. In “Good Time,” he takes a major leap, in a pulsating performance that will outlive this beautifully crafted, yet ultimately hollow heist drama.
Pattinson plays Connie, a low-life, scruffy hood who enlists his developmentally disabled brother Nick (co-director Ben Safdie, very good) in a bank robbery that quickly gets botched. Safdie and his co-director brother, Josh, stage this doomed heist in breathtaking fashion, as Connie and Nick make every mistake in the book. It’s the most heart-pounding sequence in a film that has its share of them.
Though he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, Connie somehow escapes and spends the rest of the film trying to free Nick from the authorities, during a night of misadventure in the underbelly of Queens. The Safdie brothers, who skillfully juggle the tense and the comic, populate their landscape with pathetic characters that try to assist Connie, for reasons that aren’t always apparent.
The problem is that the brotherly chemistry between Connie and Nick is so good that we feel deprived when Nick disappears for most of the movie. Eventually, we don’t give a hoot what happens to Connie, even as Pattinson’s manic energy and desperation make it hard to take our eyes off him.
The Safdie brothers, a directing pair to watch, conjure up some ingenious set-pieces to keep the action going, and throw in some juicy cameos, including Jennifer Jason Leigh as Connie’s messed-up girlfriend. But in the end, the whole enterprise comes off as too clever for its own good, a social satire without a clear target. It’s a movie that you admire more than you like.
David Lewis is a Bay Area freelance writer.
Crime drama. Starring Robert Pattinson, Ben Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie. (R. 100 minutes).