There was a time when being an inch from Robert Pattinson's face was the fervent dream of millions worldwide.
In Good Time, I found it less enthralling. The movie, starring Pattinson as a small-time hood, has some big-time close-ups. A nonstop 100 minutes of them, whether zooming in on Pattinson's famous mug or providing a handheld account of a poor security guard getting beaten half to death in the service of the movie's shambling, "comic" narrative.
Good Time, written and directed by low-budget indie filmmakers Josh and Ben Safdie, borrows a synth score from John Carpenter and nods in the direction of Dog Day Afternoon — there is the odor of losers involved in a doomed enterprise.
Good Time begins with brothers Connie and Nick Nikas (Pattinson and Ben Safdie) robbing a bank and fleeing police, then pivots to become a story of escalating mayhem moving in tandem with Connie's declining prospects of success. Connie is the by-default brains of the outfit, and he acts (when not recruiting Nick to take part in a felony) to protect his mentally challenged brother. The setup has faint echoes of Of Mice and Men, but the movie does not aspire to that level of human dignity, and in any event, the script separates the two characters in short order.
The bulk of the movie follows Connie's desperate attempts to recover the money he's stashed, unfolding in what often feels like real time. For this he exploits anyone within arm's length — his credulous pushover girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh, who's had better roles), a parolee (Buddy Duress) also dodging the cops, a hapless cabbie, etc.
The movie pitches Connie's behavior as the spur-of-the-moment improvisations of a hustler out to save his brother, often played for laughs, but a ruthlessness shows through. This adds a toxic tone to scenes that involve immigrants and minorities, although this is probably unintended.
Connie is meant to be just another guy from the outer boroughs, indistinguishable from the other blue-collar denizens of Queens. The problem is that he's not just another guy. He's Robert Pattinson, and his stature gets in the way of the story. The Safdies don't help matters by injecting a scene in which opportunistic Connie "charms" a teenage girl, surely a wink at audiences who recall Pattinson from his vampire seduction days.
The script has some clever jolts, and there is a germ of a good idea here — a story that starts forward with the familiar elements of heist movies and underdog stories, then throws the whole thing in reverse and accelerates madly in unexpected directions.
For a more skillful tear-down and rebuild of the same ingredients, consult Steven Soderbergh's Logan Lucky.