You can’t accuse Good Time of false advertising, although its title certainly holds true for the audience more than the characters.
This visceral crime thriller from sibling directors Josh and Benny Safdie (Heaven Knows What) benefits from a fully committed performance from Robert Pattinson and a gritty visual texture.
Pattinson plays Connie, a New York hoodlum who commits a bank robbery alongside his mentally disabled brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), only to have the scheme unravel during the several hours that follow.
During the getaway, Nick stumbles and is captured, which prompts an all-night effort by Connie to free him, through legal means or otherwise. Connie’s girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) agrees to help with bail, but that doesn’t go as planned. Making matters worse, Nick’s grandmother (Saida Mansoor) keeps blabbing about their unscrupulous behavior to anyone who will listen.
As Connie’s anguish turns to desperation, he finds reluctant allies in a wayward teenager (Taliah Webster) and a drug-dealing parolee (Buddy Duress) who Connie meets through a hilarious case of mistaken identity.
Amid its nocturnal odyssey, the film yields tension through a constant sense of unease — conveyed through abundant tight close-ups, the pulsating techno score by Oneohtrix Point Never and the antics of the impulsive loose-cannon protagonist at its center.
Although technically polished, it maintains a distinctly rough visual style that’s more than just gimmicks, providing an immersive glimpse into its uncompromising world of crime and punishment.
Good Time also provides a showcase of Pattinson’s versatility, as his ferocious transformation leaves behind the brooding British heartthrob persona on which he established his career. Surrounding him, once again the Safdies manage to coax authentic performances from a collection of several novice actors.
The screenplay by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein puts a fresh spin on familiar themes such as sibling bonds, tormented crooks and urban socioeconomic despair. The film doesn’t provide an easy path to redemption or catharsis, which makes it more challenging to sympathize with this quirky batch of oddballs with few benevolent qualities.
A good time might not necessarily be had by all. Yet even if the characters are unsavory and their environment is seedy, the film’s scrappy urgency and hyperkinetic energy make them compulsively watchable.