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Robert Pattinson never lets up in "Good Time"

Robert Pattinson never lets up in "Good Time"

Rating: ****1/2

“Good Time” is the 19th feature film Robert Pattinson received an acting credit for. That seems remarkable, given he made his debut in “Goblet of Fire” in 2004. Yes, it’s been 13 years since Cedric Diggory ran into a Hedge Maze only to [redacted]. A lot has changed since then. The most notable change is Pattinson’s standing as an actor, and for good reason.

The latest from Ben and Joshua Safdie is one of the best films of 2017 (so far), and it features the best performance of Pattinson’s career. No, that’s not damning with faint praise, either. The actor most famous for playing a vampire in “Twilight” has done plenty to earn audiences respect at this point, and “Good Time” just hammers that home. Be warned, though: You’re not in for a pleasant 100 minutes. The grimiest film of the year takes place in Queens, as Pattinson plays Constantine Nikas (Connie, to his friends, acquaintances, and those he’s about to use), an electric (okay, perhaps manic is a better word) small-time bank robber. One of those robberies goes awry, his brother ends up in Rikers Island, and the entire film takes place over one night as Connie tries to bust him out.

The Safdies do a marvelous job keeping the entire film balanced on the edge of an exceptionally sharp knife. That Nikas’ situation is particularly hopeless makes you feel something for a man who is willing to use violent means when necessary to accomplish his goals. He’s pathetic, he’s a bad person, but he’s also a man battling a system he can’t beat. We know what it’s like to be Connie, but we also know what it’s like to be used by him.

“Good Time” is as much a character study as it is a thriller. Connie believes he’s necessary to his brother’s survival. He believes he’s justified in breaking into hospitals, robbing banks and taking advantage of those around him. Connie is a walking, talking totem for white privilege, printed on 35 mm film.

It’s also one of the most intense films released this year. I can’t imagine anyone watching the film thinks, “man, dying to know what it’s like to be Connie right now,” but the entire 100 minute runtime dunks you in his very existence. The score, a synthy marinade, combined with tight shots and a neon glow is like taking an acid bath. It’s unpleasant, it’s intense and it’s absolutely mesmerizing.

None of this would work without Pattinson’s intense performance. Any time the film starts to slow down (this is a relative statement), he grabs it by the scruff of the neck and drags it to the next frame. It’s incredible that he possesses the acting chops to pull that kind of a move off now, but 2017 has already been filled with surprises. “Good Time” is just the latest in a long line.

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