Good Time is a thrilling indie take on the race-against-time trope

Robert Pattinson does an awful lot of running and sweating in Good Time.
Robert Pattinson does an awful lot of running and sweating in Good Time.PHOTO: ANTICIPATE PICTURES

REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER

GOOD TIME (M18)

100 minutes/Opens Friday/ 4 stars

The story: Small-time crook Constantine "Connie" Niklas (Robert Pattinson) and his intellectually disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie) rob a New York City bank. Over the course of one night, an increasingly desperate Connie must raise the money to bail out his brother, while evading capture by the police.

The ticking clock thriller gets an indie makeover and the result is a pulse-quickening ride that, in entertainment value, beats anything that mainstream cinema has made in a while.

The wunderkind Safdie brothers, Benny and Josh, co-direct this homage to 1970s low-budget cinema featuring a man on the run, trying to complete a mission, only to have one terrible mishap after another dog his footsteps.

With stars such as Pattinson and Jennifer Jason Leigh in the cast, this work is also a breakout movie for the brothers, whose previous two features, both dramas, have starred mostly unknowns.

Co-director Benny Safdie is uncannily good as Nick, the intellectually disabled younger brother doted on by older brother Connie, a man whose love for his sibling does not preclude making him an accomplice to a bank robbery. Along the way, he is helped, and sometimes hindered, by girlfriend Corey (Leigh) and a cross-section of New York's population, from its bus drivers to bail bondsmen and security guards. The Safdies cast non-actors in several of these parts to great effect. Their authenticity leaps off the screen.

The hero racing against time to complete a task to save an innocent child is a familiar trope. Except in this movie, a Palme d'Or nominee at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the innocent is a man with a child's mind, and the danger posed to him is not a gang leader holding him hostage, but the police, who would carelessly throw an intellectually disabled man in among hardened criminals.

Pattinson, who rocketed to fame in one of the most-watched franchises of all time (the Twilight series, 2008 to 2012), has been active on the arthouse circuit of late (The Lost City Of Z, 2016; Maps To The Stars, 2014) and, here, he does an awful lot of running and sweating, most of it held in close-up, in Safdie style. Call it pore acting.

But for all that, the British actor gives a subtle, shaded performance, portraying a man desperate to rescue his brother from the consequences of his own selfishness.

• Good Time is showing from Friday to Jan 1 at The Arts House Screening Room, 1 Old Parliament Lane. Schedule and tickets available at good-time.peatix.com or at the door.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Thrilling race to the end'. Print Edition | Subscribe