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 but in the ironically titled caper “Good Time,” they have quickened their already kinetic pace. This movie, wild and erratic, is downright blistering.
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.” Yet Pattinson has quietly assembled an impressive filmography with the likes of David Cronenberg and James Gray, in whose “The Lost City of Z” made such a distinct impression 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.
Connie believes in his brother — too much, you could say. Moments after fleeing the doctor, he’s ordering Nick to put on 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 US$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.
Along the way, Taliah Webster, as a black teen exploited by Connie, and the “Heaven Knows What” actor Buddy Duress, give terrific performances.
“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.