Good Time.

Good Time is the newest film from the Safdie brothers, whose last project, Heaven Knows What, was based on the memoir by Arielle Holmes, who starred in it and then played the Darth Vader-obsessed character in last year’s American Honey. Good Time is a straight-up heist film, with Robert Pattinson tremendous as the main character, in the vein of a Jim Thompson novel but less successful than Thompson was at tying up the loose ends of an intriguing plot setup. It’s out now on iTunes and amazon.

Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, who robs a bank with his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie), only to have a dye pack in the bag of cash blow up on them in the getaway car. This leads to an extended chase sequence where the brothers are separated and Nick is arrested, leaving Connie free but desperate to free his brother from Rikers, where he knows Benny isn’t likely to survive. Connie’s attempts to pay his brother’s bail drive the rest of the film, aided by the fact that Connie is about half as smart as he thinks he is – I don’t think the word “contingency” would be in his vocabulary.

Pattinson is absolutely great in this, the second excellent performance I’ve seen from him this year along with The Lost City of Z. He’s a magnetic presence, and he plays Connie in a constant manic state that keeps the tension high and also makes it clear to the audience that he’s liable to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. His concern for his brother is palpable, maybe the one sign of humanity we see in Connie, who otherwise is somewhere on the sociopath-psychopath spectrum and seems destined to get a lot of people maimed or killed. Several critics, including A.O. Scott, accused Safdie of overdoing his portrayal of someone a little slow and a little hard of hearing, but I didn’t think it was exaggerated or offensive in the limited time he’s on screen.

No one else in the movie even seems real, and there’s no depth at all to any character. Pattinson ends up in the apartment of an older woman he met on a hospital bus and befriends her 16-year-old granddaughter, but those two are largely ciphers in the film – you expect a back story, a connection, even a metaphorical one, but there’s none there. I found nothing at all beneath the grimy surface of Good Time; it’s a heist gone wrong story, with a dark-hearted character at the center, who ends up teaming up with a feckless idiot in a last-ditch attempt to raise the funds he needs. Once those two pair up, the energy of the film sputters out, and doesn’t return at all until the final sequence before the credits when the story gets its resolution.

One aspect to recommend the film, beyond Pattinson’s performance: The score from avant-garde composer Daniel Lopatin, who records as Oneohtrix Point Never, is banging, and props up the film in several moments when the engine starts to stall.

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