As sociopath thief, Robert Pattinson earns no empathy in ‘Good Time’

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The violent Connie (Robert Pattinson) takes his brother along on a bank robbery in “Good Time.” | A24

You wore me out, guys.

Directed with pounding intensity by the talented brothers Josh and Benny Safdie and featuring an impressively uncompromising performance by Robert Pattinson, “Good Time” is a hallucinatory and often gripping one-night stand of mishaps, mayhem and madness.

Ultimately, though, the sometimes clever story runs out of steam and limps across the finish line, and the in-your-face characters and camerawork, not to mention the in-your-ears score, left me not all that involved and a bit exhausted.

I have little doubt the Safdie brothers have a great movie in them. (This is their third feature, after “Daddy Longlegs” and “Heaven Knows What.”). They are undeniably skilled, and they certainly have no qualms about taking chances and challenging the audience.

But for all its merits, “Good Time” feels more like a bridge to greatness than stand-alone dazzling work.

Just about every character in “Good Time” is stupid or loathsome or corrupt or unlikable to the core — and in the case of Pattinson’s Connie Nikas, he’s all those things and less.

Of course it’s possible to make a compelling film about a morally bankrupt and recklessly violent criminal sociopath, but Connie is such a small-time loser, and he is so repulsive in his brutal treatment of decent human beings (an alarming number of whom are women and/or minorities), that unlike, say, the Al Pacino character in “Dog Day Afternoon” or the bank robbers in “Heat” (to name just a couple of far superior heist films), it’s nearly impossible to feel any empathy for this guy.

Connie has no regard for any human being other than himself and his mentally challenged brother Nick (played, quite well, by Benny Safdie.). And it could be argued Connie doesn’t even really care about Nick, given how Connie continually puts his brother in jeopardy.

After a disturbingly effective opening sequence in which a psychologist questions an increasingly uncomfortable and heartbreakingly simple Nick, the Nikas brothers rob a bank and somehow manage to get away with the money — but things go sour almost immediately, with the marked bills exploding in their faces and the police in hot pursuit.

This sets off a chain of bizarre and occasionally wickedly funny events, all transpiring over the course of one long night and early morning.

We meet Connie’s girlfriend of sorts Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a shrill idiot who agrees to help Connie bail out his brother, on the thin promise Connie will take her on a vacation. The subplot with the girlfriend doesn’t really go anywhere. When Jennifer Jason Leigh essentially disappears from the story, we envy her.

Connie falls in with Ray (Buddy Duress), a recently paroled scumbag who is so dull-witted he makes Connie look like a criminal mastermind. Their misadventures together include a soda bottle filled with LSD, an ill-conceived break-in at an amusement park and a nasty attack dog. Some of it funny, some of it tedious.

As my friend and colleague A.O. Scott of the New York Times has pointed out — and I agree — there’s also an “ugly racial dimension” (and I would add xenophobia) to Connie’s actions.

When Connie and Nick rob the bank, they sport facial masks with exaggerated African-American features. Why?

Connie takes advantage of an immigrant black woman (Gladys Mathon) and seduces her granddaughter (Taliah Lennice Webster), who is said to be a teenager but looks much younger.

And in a scene when a black security guard (Barkhad Abdi) with an accent confronts Connie, the violent reaction from Connie is so over the top, so vicious, it’s difficult not to question if Connie is a racist on top of everything else.

Perhaps the Safdie brothers were trying to make a point about how even someone as repugnant as Connie can get away with a lot, simply because he’s Caucasian and handsome.

Perhaps they were exposing their own anti-hero and hoping we’d see him for the scumbag he truly is.

Perhaps perhaps. Whatever the intentions of the filmmakers, “Good Time” is a promising but flawed final product.


A24 presents a film directed by Josh & Benny Safdie and written by Ronald Bronstein and Josh Safdie. Rated R (for language throughout, violence, drug use and sexual content). Running time: 101 minutes. Opens Friday at AMC River East and Regal Webster Place.

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