Good Time Review
Robert Pattinson will no doubt always be grateful for the opportunities the success of Twilight have afforded him, but like his former co-star Kristen Stewart, wiping that moody teen character out of the eyes of the audience is easier said than done. His attempts to do so has seen him submit himself to David Cronenberg in Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, disappear under the dust and dirt of The Rover and venture deep into the Amazon for The Lost City of Z. Step-by-step the emo vampires have faded from sight, and in the Safdie brothers new release, Good Time, Pattinson has finally come of age, falling into a sweaty, mess of a character to give a truly captivating performance.
Pattinson is almost unrecognisable with his goatee, earring, dyed hair and sportswear clothing. The likes of second rate criminal Connie Nikas live on the fringes of society, existing outside of the system, banking on quick get-rich schemes that only ever led back to square one. From the moment we first meet Connie he is constantly on the move, trying to avoid being seen in one form or another, trapped in a semi-permanent state of paranoia as his failed attempts at fixing his predicament only serve to make things worse.
Our introduction begins with Connie pulling his brother Nick (played by director Benny Safdie) out of a mental development assessment following an argument at home with his mother. Nick's learning difficulties make Connie that bit more protective of him, but even though his intentions are good his judgement is questionable at best. Like roping his brother into robbing a bank, for instance. All appears to have gone smoothly enough until their cab is sent careering off the side of the road, its interior doused in red dye, as are the two dazed brothers. Despite their best efforts to clean up it isn't long before they're pursued by the police in a tensely directed chase sequence dominated by Daniel Lopatin’s (Oneohtrix Point Never) oppressive electro synth score.
The chase sees Nick caught by the police and over the course of the next 24 hours we follow Connie in his attempts to raise the $10,000 bail money needed to free him. He at first tries to manipulate older girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) - a woman with the temperament of a five-year-old - before resorting to a botched escape plan that pulls unwitting accomplices into his reckless whirlwind. The score is used on a number of occasions to slowly wind itself into a frenzy, each time tightening its grip on your nerves. Think Scorsese’s After Hours but with the tension left intentionally in sixth gear.
Benny and Josh Safdie drag us into a section of society most people try their best to avoid, filled with characters who possess few redeeming features. Close-ups push us unapologetically into their faces where there is no avoiding the ugliness of their world. Buddy Duress fits the profile perfectly as the battered alcoholic Ray (Duress had been in and out of prison eight times before this film), who literally opens his eyes to find himself smack bang in the middle of a drama he knows nothing about. He holds his own next to Pattinson, and even though you know their unsuitable partnership is only ever going to end one way, it's the type of car crash viewing where you can't wait for the mangled metal to crunch together.
There is no doubt that this remains Pattinson's film and it sets a marker for what's to follow. He doesn't let go of our attention thanks his immersive performance, strengthened by the Safdie’s assured direction, a terrific score and a strong supporting cast. He apparently spent several weeks eating nothing but raw tuna living in a rundown flat in New York during filming, a level of preparation that seeps through into his slippery, snakeskin appearance. Pattinson completely disappears into character and in doing so produces not only a career best, but one of the standouts of 2017. Good Time lives up to its name in a way you might not expect, by diving head first into the grimy underbelly of New York City.