ROBERT Pattinson is still known by many for his appearances in the lucrative Twilight series.
But since the final film in 2012, like his co-star and former partner Kristen Stewart, Pattinson has branched out into less commercial fare working with acclaimed directors such as David Cronenberg.
His latest picture sees him under the direction of American indie duo Ben and Josh Safdie for Good Time, an edge-of-your-seat thriller which corroborates Pattinson as a competent player of indie fare.
At the start of the film, we observe Nick (Ben Safdie acting as well) in a psychiatrist’s office. Suffering from learning disabilities, he appears uncomfortable with his assessment, leading to his brother Connie (Pattinson) storming in and dragging him out.
Shortly afterwards, Nick accompanies Connie on a bank robbery which results in a police chase following which Connie escapes but Nick is captured and sent to prison.
An altercation in prison leads to him being hospitalized and as a result, Connie sets to bail him out at a cost of $10,000, which he does not have and his girlfriend cannot access.
He thus sets in motion a plan to break him free but as the night progresses, innocent strangers are gradually caught up and desperate actions become imperative.
Beginning with the sense that we are observing a social realist drama, the sudden change to its crime thriller status is what helps this film succeed. It does not waste time in making the viewer invested in the activities of the lead character and rather than slowing down, it gets better and more intense as it continues.
The naturalistic feel that the Safdies bought to their previous feature Heaven Knows What remains, although the star power of Pattinson is a completely different approach to that said film. While that was underwhelming due to its progressive bleak nature, the usage of Arrielle Holmes, a real-life drug addict acting for the first time showed that at least performances could carry a film.
Some would suspect that using Pattinson may be a distraction but it is far from it. In time, one will look at this as a key example of proving wrong any naysayers who fail to recognize him as a serious and capable actor post-Twilight.
The directors also use some familiar actors in small but essential roles too. Jennifer Jason Leigh turns up as Connie’s older girlfriend who in a well-acted scene chastises for mother for denying her a chance to do something good for others.
And the BAFTA-winner Barkhaad Abdi, best known for playing the pirate leader in Captain Phillips, also appears as a security guard in one of the most crucial scenes of the film. Whilst Connie and an accomplish search desperately for abandoned drugs in a closed amusement park, the inevitable conflict between them results in a sequence that is both cruel and darkly humorous. Here, without likely intending, the Safdies craft a scene that would fit into a Coen Brothers film.
On par with Pattinson is Buddy Duress as a down-on-his-luck parolee who inadvertently finds himself caught up with Connie. His frequent complaining is part of what helps this movie work at times as a black comedy with several dialogue scenes providing a much-needed humour, balancing successfully with the bleak realities often viewed.
The storyline centres on the unexpected problems that Connie finds himself in as the night progresses and the situation becomes further complicated. A lot of the time he is lucky and the question the film progresses is how long can his luck hold for?
The locations vary with the fairground and a tower block amongst the areas he finds himself in At one point, he ends up relying on a complete stranger and granddaughter taking him in while he works on a solution. Of course the somewhat rebellious teenager ends up getting involved with Connie and his plans but the thriller segment is what adds to the intrigue. Not only does Connie have to succeed in his plan, but he has to contend with random strangers getting involved too, adding to that unpredictability the film plays on.
Whether its the opening evaluation, a chase through a shopping mall, Connie’s persuasion to secure his brother’s bail money or the multiple attempts to dodge authoritarian figures, Good Time’s status as an often uncomforting thriller is genuine. Frequently filming its actors in documentary-style close-up, the Safdies deliver their naturalistic style to this genre and in doing so craft a work that is short on dull cliches and high on intensity.