PLOT A bank robbery goes very wrong for two brothers.
CAST Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie
RATED R (language throughout, violence, drug use and sexual content)
PLAYING AT Manhasset Cinemas
BOTTOM LINE Taut thriller ratcheted by superb performances.
The unnerving crime thriller “Good Time” moves like a streak, barely able to keep up with its characters.
“Twilight” star Robert Pattinson is nearly unrecognizable and pitch perfect as the reckless, selfish, charismatic man at its core, Constantine “Connie” Nikas, a small-time Queens hustler of Greek-American extraction. Connie is a fabulist and a weasel, and Pattinson’s characterization makes each sweaty chapter of this crime story fascinating.
It’s not simply Connie’s story. The opening scene belongs to his brother, Nick (played with perfect pitch and emotional nakedness by co-director Benny Safdie). In tight, intimidating close-ups, we see Nick in a drab office with a court-appointed psychiatrist (Peter Verby).
As the doctor questions the developmentally and hearing-challenged young man, we learn bits and pieces of what Nick and Connie have endured living with their abusive grandmother, who enters the story later. It’s an extraordinarily deft overture: just enough exposition to tell us what need to know about the stories leading up to this one.
Connie bursts into the room, interrupts the session, and busts his brother out so that they can embark on the adventure of their lives, for better or worse. There’s a bank robbery on the agenda. Connie convinces Nick he can do it; he tells him he has the stuff it takes to commit a crime.
Wearing racially provocative dark-skinned masks, the Nikas boys dash with the money, but right away the good times promised by the title prove slippery. In short order the robbery goes flooey, and Nick winds up in the hospital after a brutal beating on Rikers Island. The action also rolls on to Long Island and Adventureland, where a night security guard runs afoul of Connie in a particularly painful way.
Most crime movies, even alleged indies, make it easy for the audience to take sides and establish clear rooting interests. “Good Time” is better than that: It’s not always easy to take, yet you can’t look away.