Pat­tin­son’s “Good Time” is down­right blis­ter­ing

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Content - Text: Jake Coyle AP Film Writer

The fra­ter­nal di­rect­ing duo of Josh and Benny Safdie make ur­ban odysseys that flow with the quick­sil­ver cur­rents of New York City. You can feel the gum-stained pave­ment un­der your feet. You can smell the Q train.

The Safdies were al­ready an elec­tric new en­ergy in cinema — street­wise and scuzzy — but in the iron­i­cally ti­tled ca­per “Good Time,” they have quick­ened their al­ready ki­netic pace. This movie, wild and er­ratic, is down­right blis­ter­ing. The open­ing cred­its, as if rush­ing to catch up, don’t ap­pear un­til well into the film, af­ter all hell has al­ready bro­ken loose.

Many of their gritty, abra­sive tales em­anate di­rectly from the street; that’s where they found the home­less, heroin-ad­dicted pro­tag­o­nist (Arielle Holmes) of their last film, the verite “Heaven Knows What.” The same could not be said for the star of “Good Time”: Robert Pat­tin­son. The “Twi­light” ac­tor, cap­ti­vated by a still from “Heaven Knows What,” con­tacted the Safdies and out came “Good Time.”

It goes with­out say­ing that this is a long way off from “Twi­light” — a fran­chise that, what­ever its other at­tributes, has at least given us two of the most in­ter­est­ing ac­tors of a gen­er­a­tion. While Kris­ten Ste­wart has al­ready won ac­claim for her­self in Olivier As­sayas films and oth­ers, Pat­tin­son has more qui­etly as­sem­bled an equally im­pres­sive fil­mog­ra­phy with the likes of David Cro­nen­berg and James Gray, in whose “The Lost City of Z” Pat­tin­son made such a dis­tinct (if heav­ily bearded) im­pres­sion ear­lier this year.

In “Good Time,” he plays Con­nie, one of two broth­ers from Queens. The other, Nick (played by co-di­rec­tor Benny Safdie), is men­tally

chal­lenged. With no par­ents ap­par­ently on the scene, Con­nie is Nick’s keeper, and a highly ques­tion­able one at that. In the open­ing scene, he pulls Nick out of a psy­chi­a­trist ses­sion, ad­mon­ish­ing him as they hus­tle down the hall­way that it’s not where he be­longs.

Con­nie be­lieves in his brother — too much, you could say. Not mo­ments af­ter flee­ing the doc­tor, he’s or­der­ing Nick to put on a mask — a cheap, rub­bery black face — and lead­ing him into a bank rob­bery at a teller win­dow. Not since “Dog Day Af­ter­noon” has a more un­pre­pared pair tried their hand at an ill-con­sid­ered heist. They emerge with $60,000 in cash but soon af­ter their liv­ery cab driver picks them up, a dye pack ex­plodes and the broth­ers spill out of the car in a cloud of red smoke.

From here, it’s a non­stop freefall. Chased by the po­lice, Nick crashes through a glass door and is ar­rested. Con­nie, des­per­ate to put bail money to­gether, first tries to take ad­van­tage of his bet­ter-off girl­friend ( Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh) and, when that fails, im­pro­vises his way through in­creas­ingly au­da­cious schemes in a noc­tur­nal ad­ven­ture that some­how in­cludes trips to an amuse­ment park, White Cas­tle and a ran­dom house­hold in which Con­nie takes the time to dye his hair blond. Along the way, Taliah Web­ster, as a black teen ex­ploited by Con­nie, and the “Heaven Knows What” ac­tor Buddy Duress, give ter­rific per­for­mances. (Duress’ en­trance is alone worth the price of ad­mis­sion.)

In the an­nals of the crime film, the pulpy “Good Time” is roughly the op­po­site of some­thing like the uber-pro­fes­sional thieves of “Heat.” At one point, “Cops” is seen on a tele­vi­sion, and th­ese are the kind of dimwit­ted ex­ploits that would fit right in there. But aside from be­ing a de­voted brother, the preda­tory Con­nie also a clever, lech­er­ous user of peo­ple.

Love was a drug for the smit­ten young woman of “Heaven Knows What.” For the broth­ers of “Good Time,” it’s an ex­ploita­tion. But in the film’s head­long rush, the jailed Nick vir­tu­ally disappears, and that feels like a mis­take. If there’s a knock on “Good Time,” it’s that its sheer ea­ger­ness for any­thing un­con­ven­tional comes at the cost of some­thing deeper.

But what a trip it is. “Good Time” flies by in a rush of neon col­ors and the throb­bing elec­tro score of Oneo­htrix Point Never. The cin­e­matog­ra­phy of Sean Price Wil­liams is ex­cep­tion­ally ag­ile. In the style of Robert Alt­man’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” Wil­liams fuses grainy re­al­ism with frozen mo­ments held in a lengthy zoom.

And in close-up, we see Pat­tin­son more clearly than ever be­fore. His per­for­mance — sen­si­tive and con­trolled amid the chaos— is eas­ily the best of his career. But the Safdies, one sus­pects, are just get­ting started.

Im­ages: A24 via AP

Robert Pat­tin­son in “Good Time.”

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