Ever have one of those late-night moments, after too many drinks and alkaloid derivatives, when you wind up in a truly bizarre situation and ask yourself, What impossible sequence of poor choices did I make to arrive at this specific place and time?
For would-be bank robber Connie (Robert Pattinson), that moment comes about halfway into the crazy-ass crime thriller Good Time, one of the summer's best and boldest films. After a bank heist gone spectacularly wrong, Connie finds himself in a shuttered amusement park at three in the morning, disguised as a security guard, upending a prop sarcophagus in a frantic search for a Sprite bottle filled with liquid LSD.
Yeah, it's going to be one of those nights for Connie, who is both a terminally dumb criminal and a master improviser, sprinting from one surreal crisis to the next on a bitterly cold night in New York City. Connie's developmentally disabled younger brother, Nicky (Benny Safdie), was nabbed in the robbery, and Connie needs to rustle up bail in a hurry. His extemporaneous crowdfunding campaign leads him to harrowing encounters across the city, involving delinquent teens, ex-cons, hair dye, White Castle restrooms, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as an accomplice even more high-strung than Connie is.
Directed by the up-and-coming filmmaking team of brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, Good Time is a high-voltage cinematic power play with a neon-drenched color palette that leaves an ache behind your eyes. Connie's desperation is conveyed through jittery handheld cam shots of his face in extreme close-up; the framing is like a vise crushing his addled skull.
The Safdies leaven the pressure, however, with moments of grim humor so deadpan that you might miss them entirely. Good Time generates the kind of laughs you're instantly ashamed about, a variety I, personally, enjoy. When a movie makes me laugh against my better judgment, I figure something interesting is going on.
Pattinson tears it up; this is easily the best performance of his career. He's almost unrecognizable behind his ragged goatee, his gutter-punk hoodie, and his perpetual grimace of amphetamine intensity. The poor guy has been trying to shed those Twilight movies for ten years now. This should do the trick.
Heads up, though: the film's lockjaw tension is quite intense. Loitering Twilight fans hoping for a glimpse of Pattinson's mopey vampire character will want to stay away. This movie is designed to scrape your nerves raw, then make you laugh about it.