I guarantee you'll never look at Pattinson the same again after you've seen him tweak his way through the role of a manic, dim-witted thief in one of the most inept bank robberies since, yes, Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon.”
If at the height of “Twilight” mania you had told me one day I would compare vampire-in-chief Robert Pattinson with young Al Pacino, I would have driven a wooden stake through your heart. But guess what? That day has arrived. So it’s fangs for the memories, as I jump on the Team Edward bus and sing the praises of the once brooding himbo and hail his arrival as a legit actor in “Good Time,” the pulsating crime drama from wunderkind directors Joshua and Ben Safdie.
The title couldn’t be more perfect, because “Good Time,” true to its definition, is both a blast to experience and a prime opportunity for an actor fighting to escape a lightweight reputation. I guarantee you’ll never look at Pattinson the same again after you’ve seen him tweak his way through the role of a manic, dim-witted thief determined to build his mentally ill brother’s confidence by involving him in one of the most inept bank robberies since, yes, Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon.”
To say Pattinson’s Constantine “Connie” Nikas isn’t the brightest lowlife to ever crawl out of Queens is a vast understatement. Enterprising, yes; smart, no. But to hang with him for as long as it takes the men in blue to finally catch up with Connie on a one-night odyssey of self-destruction is not just a pleasure, it’s something you cannot afford to miss.
Credit that to the Safdies, two of the craftiest young filmmakers to ever pick up a camera. What they do in the space of 100-breathtaking minutes is extraordinary, as they pay holy deference to heroes – and fellow New Yorkers – Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet.
The Safdies aren’t near that level – yet. But give them time.
They’re that good. And what they manufacture isn’t just a movie; it’s an experience, an amusement park ride that winds up – where else – at an amusement park.
That’s how clever these guys are when it comes to combining intense action with vivid social commentary via a plethora of colorful characters existing between the cracks of a society that extends the benefits of white privilege all the way down to scum like Connie. For him, people of color exist only to be used and abused, which he does with shocking regularity.
Much like last year’s “Hell or High Water,” the fast-and- jittery “Good Time” uses criminality to paint a larger portrait of a U.S.A. that’s lost its way. And like that Oscar-nominated gem, “Good Time” begins with a holdup, when Connie literally yanks his mentally disabled brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), out of therapy to drag the poor kid down to the corner bank, where they instantly experience the long arm of Murphy’s Law.
Nothing goes right, down to the getaway livery not arriving on time. And it only goes downhill from there, with Nick ending up in police custody and Connie desperate to break him out before Nick’s ravenous cellmates beat the crap out of him.
As with Scorsese’s “After Hours,” the movie sends Connie down the rabbit hole on a calamitous mission in which time and ingenuity is of the essence. Along the way, he encounters a host of would-be Samaritans, beginning with Connie’s strung-out girlfriend, Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who, despite being in her 50s, still lives with her nagging mother. Leigh, cranking it up to 11, renders Corey as hilarious as she is pathetic. But sadly, her stay is short – and Corey’s assistance of little use.
So it’s on to Plan C for Connie, as he hits upon a series of black and Hispanic people with huge hearts he cavalierly takes full advantage of before discarding them like the trash he perceives them to be.
Connie’s racism knows no bounds, but it’s disturbingly subtle – just the way the Safdies and their co-writer, Ronald Bronstein, intend.
It’s just another layer of a multifaceted film that packs so much depth you might need to see it twice to absorb it all. And what you’ll also see are a host of terrific supporting roles by the likes of Oscar-nominees in Leigh and Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”); relative unknowns in Safdie- regular Bobby Duress, excellent as a conniving drug addict in the brothers’ last film, the gritty “Heaven Knows What”; and a dazzling newcomer in Taliah Webster as a naive teenager who makes the mistake of falling for Connie’s sexually charged manipulations.
All four, along with rapper Necro as a white-supremacist acid dealer fond of Pepe the Frog logos, perfectly complement Pattinson on his journey from punchline to serious Oscar contender. Unlike past attempts to gain legitimacy in films like “The Rover” and the recent “Queen of the Desert,” Pattinson isn’t straining this time. He’s relaxed, confident and completely in control.
In fact, you might not even recognize him behind his scraggly beard and unruly hair, which goes from brown to blonde over the course of the movie. But it’s what’s behind the hair that dazzles, a full-bodied performance that extracts so much energy he leaves you feeling spent. And I mean that in the best possible way. As a vampire, Pattinson sucked. But thanks to “Good Time,” he doesn’t suck anymore.
GOOD TIME (R for language throughout, violence, drug use and sexual content.) Cast includes Robert Pattinson, Ben Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi and Bobby Duress. Grade: A-