Connie Nikas is desperate. He’s short of money, which is one reason he decides to rob a bank in a manner so crazy that it just might work – until he makes one in a series of stupid errors.
But that’s Connie, the principal character in the Safdie Brothers’ half-ironically titled film “Good Time.” He veers from crazy-smart to crazy-stupid during a night-long frenzy in which the bank heist is only the beginning.
Connie has already broken his mentally challenged brother, Nick, out of a treatment center. His excuse: Nick doesn’t like the place. But then he brings clueless Nick along on the robbery scheme, so as with pretty much everything he does, Connie’s motives are more than a bit self-serving.
And not to press the point, but this is just the beginning. Connie is forced to deal with the bank-job aftermath, which includes Nick getting pinched by the cops. Connie first tries to get bail money for his brother by taking advantage of the obviously troubled woman he has been seeing (a bedraggled Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Then, learning that Nick has been transferred from jail to a hospital, he haunts the building’s corridors, looking for a chance to sneak Nick out. This scheme, too, ends up having its drawbacks.
From there, Connie – played, surprisingly well, by former “Twilight” heartthrob Robert Pattinson – uses his charm and good looks to inveigle his way into a woman’s home. And yet the night is far from over, as it involves both his seducing the woman’s impressionable daughter and then taking her along as he breaks into an amusement park, looking for what promises to be a bundle of stolen loot.
And the “Good Time” doesn’t stop there. Not even close.
The Safdie brothers, Benny and Josh, have been making films since they were both in high school, even if only now is their work getting national attention. Josh and Ronald Bronstein wrote the script, Josh and Benny co-directed and Benny stars along with Pattinson, making an impression as the often confused Nick.
The directing style they use is a blend of the breathless and the claustrophobic. Their camera closes in on the actors’ faces so much you may feel the need to pull away from the screen. Meanwhile, watching Connie’s headlong sprint from one insane plan to the next is likely to leave you dizzy.
In terms of context, “Good Time” doesn’t have much to offer. It’s not as if, when Connie’s sojourn comes to an end, the Safdies have any real life lessons to impart – unless you need a reason NOT to lie, cheat and steal. They’re content to just let the energy of their film speak for itself.
Much of that energy is generated by their cast. Benny Safdie makes Nick into something far more than mere caricature. Buddy Duress shows up as one of Connie’s biggest mix-ups and adds a bit of “Mean Streets” to the mix.
But it is Pattinson who shines. Once a vampire hunk, he has grown into the kind of actor the camera loves – even if preteen girls no longer will.