Connie (Pattinson) is a desperate petty crook whose sole mission is to take care of his mentally challenged brother Nick (co-director Benny Safdie). Needing a cash injection fast, Connie forces Nick to join him in a bank robbery. The robbery itself is a success but the getaway less so: after a frantic chase Nick is arrested and Connie needs ten grand for bail, moving across the city in an attempt to cobble together the money…
A breathless thriller, directors Benny and Josh Safdie don't concern themselves with the whys and the wherefores as it puts the audience into the, presumably, leaky shoes of anti-hero Pattinson. We're with him as thinks on his feet and makes one bad decision after another. The opening half hour is manic and edgy with the narrative boasting an ever-rolling momentum: the opening credits don't turn up until five minutes in while the closing credits roll over the last scene, giving one the impression that the brothers' story started long before this night and will continue after the lights come up.
Helping things along is the Safdie's unshowy direction, keeping the camera as close to Pattinson's face as possible. It's all designed to induce anxiety: we can't see beyond this world just as Pattinson can't: all we see is him and his naked desperation. This nightworld is a nightmarish one: with the grotesque masks they wear for the robbery, the disfigured faces that inhabit the world, and the chamber of horrors in the park, this is hell on earth. On top of all this is the pummelling and sometimes overpowering music from Warp darling Oneohtrix Point Never, whose dark synth-based tunes play like nightmarish flipside to the cooler-than-thou Drive soundtrack. Good Time is certainly an experience.
But Josh Safdie's script (co-written with regular contributor Ronald Bronstein) makes a faux pas in removing Safdie's Nick from the second act. He is the heart of the story and while Pattinson's single-minded drive is to free him from prison, not having Nick involved with the action chips away at emotional involvement. It tries to make up for it by including Buddy Duress' Ray, a disfigured ex-con just out of prison and hunting down a bottle of acid he hopes to sell on, but Connie's team up with Ray doesn't have the same emotional impact or immediacy that the Connie-Nick relationship has. The hopes that this was going to turn into a contemporary urban crime take on Of Mice And Men dissolves once Nick is incarcerated.
The performances are flawless however. This is Pattinson's (who has sought out arthouse film since Twilight wrapped) finest turn. He's backed up by an impressive Leigh, who turns up briefly as his unhinged girlfriend, Safdie, and Duress, with his beaten and bruised face, turns in an eye-catching role..