In one of the few quiet moments in Good Time, Robert Pattinson’s character, lowlife Connie Nikas, confesses that he believes he spent a previous life as a dog. At that point in the latest urban nightmare from the familial directing duo Josh and Benny Safdie (Heaven Knows What), the audience can’t be sure he’s telling the truth — he’ll say or do anything to survive—but we’ve started to see the canine in him too. Mangy and fiercely loyal to his mentally challenged brother, Nick (Benny Safdie, again), Connie is our guide through the film’s neon-lit New York City hellscape over the course of 24 truly horrendous hours.
With fantasies of a new life in the country, Connie ropes his brother into a poorly planned bank heist. When things inevitably go wrong, it’s Nick who ends up in custody, sending Connie on a desperate odyssey to scrape together the $10,000 he needs to post bail for his brother.
What follows plays out like a drug cocktail of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and a Michael Mann-directed acid trip. As the long bad night barrels forward, Connie bounces between a series of acquaintances (including Jennifer Jason Leigh, a girlfriend to whom he’s promised a beach vacation) and increasingly bleak odds. The wild night eventually turns downright rabid, but Pattinson anchors Good Time, completely selling Connie from the moment he bursts into the frame and delivering the best performance of his career. (This coming only a few months after a quiet, assured turn in The Lost City of Z.) His energy here matches the verve of the Safdies’ direction, which propels the story at a breathless sprint and captures an NYC of hospital corridors, White Castle parking lots, and outer-borough high-rises. It’s not the kind of place you want to live. It’s not one you’d even want to visit. But damn if it isn’t a good time. A–