Readers, be warned: Good Time is not the easygoing romp its title suggests. The new movie from Joshua and Benny Safdie, the sibling team of indie filmmakers behind abrasive micro-budget cult hits like Daddy Longlegs and Heaven Knows What, is hardly a fun experience at the theater, but it is an unforgettable one. Propulsive, urgent, and frequently disturbing, Good Time is a techno-scored, 21st-century journey into New York’s criminal underbelly that manages to feel authentic and deeply surreal at the same time.
Who did the Safdie brothers recruit for this uncanny film? Robert Pattinson, of course—the one-time teen idol who now seems to enjoy defacing his movie-star looks in the name of art cinema. He was outstanding this year as the mumbling, bearded aide-de-camp in The Lost City of Z, and he’s even better here as Constantine Nikas, a small-time Queens bank robber trying to break his brother out of jail after a heist gone wrong. Good Time is nasty and sometimes unconscionably brutal, but it’s also the best film the Safdies have made, a (literally) grimy odyssey that’ll make you want to take a shower upon exiting the theater.
The Safdies’ last movie, Heaven Knows What, was similarly tough to watch but followed more sympathetic subjects: a group of heroin addicts panhandling and trying to survive in Manhattan. Constantine (Connie to his friends) is concerned with a more immediate mess of his own making, a bank robbery that went south because of his inept, mentally challenged brother Nick (played, with surprising pathos, by Benny Safdie himself). Nick is soon arrested and sent to jail, but a fight gets him transferred to the hospital, from which Connie seeks to rescue him.