The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:


 The Worst of Times

Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson
 101 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh 
Good Time

Typecasting is a problem for all actors, but especially so for those younger performers who don’t have an extensive body of work and for whom one big success, especially in a series, can severely hurt their long-term career chances. A prime example is Tobey Maguire, who has never really emerged from the shadow of Spider-Man. More recently, though, Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart have proved their acting chops by going the independent route. Now, the latest to do so is Stewart’s Twilight castmate Robert Pattinson, who gets about as far away as possible from the vampire Edward Cullen by playing another, far less glamorous creature of the night in Good Time, a taut, independent thriller from director brothers Josh and Benny Safdie.


Pattinson is almost unrecognizable as spike-haired (and bleached blond for half the movie) Connie Nikas, a high strung, petty crook who has a certain animal cunning but imagines himself much more of a master criminal than he is. Connie casually uses and discards anyone with whom he comes in contact, with the notable exception of his younger, mentally challenged brother Nick (co-director Benny Safdie). As the film opens, Connie pulls Nick out of a badly needed therapy session to help pull off a bank robbery (the first of many bad decisions Connie makes in Good Time). The robbery goes well, but Connie doesn’t realize the loot the teller placed in the bag contains a dye pack that goes off while the brothers are making their getaway, ruining the money. Before the brothers can reach safety, Nick panics when confronted by the cops (in the scene below), resulting in his arrest.


Connie realizes Nick won’t do well at Riker’s Island, so he first tries to persuade his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to bail Nick out. When that doesn’t work (Corey’s mother wisely cut off her credit cards), Connie learns that Nick has been beaten up while at Riker’s and is now in a hospital. Connie is actually able to free a heavily bandaged prisoner from the hospital but later learns that the prisoner is not Nick, but another man. The man Connie sprang, Ray (Buddy Duress), is a hapless parolee who claims to know the location of a supply of LSD that they can sell to raise the money for Nick’s bail. Before they can do so, however, they must break into a deserted amusement park late at night to recover the drugs from the location that Ray hid them earlier that day.


Most of Good Time, from Connie’s failed attempt to raise the bail money on, takes place over the course of one long night as Connie makes his way around New York City. The movie calls to mind a number of similar films set in the seedy nighttime of a big city, including Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and After Hours and Michael Mann’s Collateral. Normally, a comparison of a film by relative unkown filmmakers to the likes of Mann in Scorsese implies a failed attempt to copy the earlier works, but, here, the Safdie brothers have come up with a film that moves to its own rhythm. They use a variety of camera techniques, some hand held and some that capture the mix of light and darkness of the New York night. What’s really surprising about the camera work is that cinematographer Sean Price Williams, like most of the cast and crew, with the exception of Pattinson, Leigh, and Barkhad Abdi (who plays the amusement park security guard), have little or no mainstream film experience. But Williams and the rest of the crew are familiar with New York City, and that shows.


Good Times was written by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, and the screenwriters intentionally violate many of the traditional rules of writing, but, in this case, the film is better for their decisions. Much of the action in the movie is never explained, such as why Connie needed to rob the bank (he insisted he needed $65,000, a figure that is never explained and then seemingly forgotten after Nick is arrested) or the exact relationship between Connie and Corey, a woman about 20 years older than him. Eventually, Corey is one of several people Connie discards during the course of the movie, including an underage girl he meets when he convinces the girl’s grandmother to let him and his supposed brother in the wheelchair to let them spend the night in her house. None of them, however, are quite as pathetic as the hapless Ray, a man who might as well have the word “loser” tattooed on his forehead. In one of the film’s more bizarre scenes (one of the few that doesn’t really work), Ray explains just how he wound up getting beaten up again, and it’s completely pathetic.


The omissions in the screenplay may pique the curiosity a bit (I wondered how a security guard at an amusement park could afford the rather luxurious surroundings Barkhad Abdi’s character inhabited), they easily fall by the wayside because the inexorable focus of Good Times is on Connie. And, as played by Pattinson, Connie is a compelling character who easily dominates the movie. Connie is a bundle of taut energy, jittery, always planning and scheming, then recklessly putting those plans into action without consideration of the consequences. Surprisingly, he succeeds on occasion, as when he manages to break a man out of a hospital and talk a complete stranger into taking the two of them in. But he is always a creature of the moment, never capable of thinking things through enough for his plans to actually succeed. Connie is a loser who thinks he is smarter than he is, in many ways reminiscent of Al Pacino’s Sonny from Dog Day Afternoon. Pattinson captures Connie perfectly without ever appearing overly actorish. His constant jittery motion (left unsaid in the movie is whether Connie is also an addict) and obvious thought processes always feel natural and not an actor calling attention to a character’s quirks. This is a performance by an assured actor.


Pattinon’s Connie is his second solid performance in an independent production this year, following his role as an explorer in The Lost City of Z. But Pattinson easily fit in the background in that earlier movie; here, he dominates the entire film, down to a lengthy final shot that perfectly captures all his character’s eccentricities. But, although Pattinson dominates Good Game, he’s far from the entire story. The movie relies on a talented supporting cast and a screenplay filled with memorable, moments such as the clueless Benny insisting on watching his own TV show while in the commons room at Riker’s , leading to a beating the audience sees coming well in advance. Unlike Benny’s fate, however, the Sadies keep everything unpredictable and at a brisk pace in Good Time, while never feeling rushed. The movie is a coming out party for Robert Pattinson, but it also serves as one for the Safdie Brothers.

In this scene, Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie go on the run from the police after robbing a bank.

Read other reviews of Good Time:


Good Time (2017) on IMDb