Cannes 2017: Good Time review

★★★☆☆
Robert Pattinson has done his damnedest to lose the fangs from his Twilight fame. Cannes has been part of the process with premieres of Cosmopolis, Maps of the Stars and The Rover. Now he's back with Benny and Josh Safdie's street-level crime thriller Good Time.

Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a small time criminal with just enough smarts to stay one step ahead of the law but not much more than that. His brother Nick (Benny Safdie) is mentally-challenged. We first meet him in an interview with a doctor (Peter Verby), until Connie breaks in and pulls his brother out. Connie is in denial about his brother and for motives which are not readily apparent takes him a long to a bank robbery. It doesn't bode well that the exchange of written notes begins to look like the famous scene in Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run - "I have a gub, what's a gub?" Almost miraculously they get out with some money but things unravel.

With his brother snagged by the police, Connie sets about raising the bail money, conning his girlfriend Jennifer Jason Leigh into using her mother's credit card. At every turn, Connie is restlessly inventive, his eyes flitting nervously around the room to check out the escape routes and work something out. He's like the smartest guy in Palookaville, but one still wonders when it occurred to him to recruit his vulnerable brother in a federal crime. It's an inconsistency that also wears at the idea of brotherly love. As if Tom Cruise took Dustin Hoffman on a heist in Rain Man. As if to emphasise the danger his brother has landed him in, poor Nick takes a vicious beating in jail and is so moved to hospital, leading Connie to perpetrate another half-smart rescue attempt, the conclusion of which is genuinely funny.

The journey through a nighttime New York is rich in realistic characters, observational details and some original locations. Connie's mission sees him mixed up with a young black girl (Taliah Webster), who he cynically seduces as part of his plan, and an ex-con with mashed up face (Buddy Duress) who has a bag of money hidden in a Luna Park. The story in the last act splutters to a weirdly abrupt end with an arbitrariness that suggest that the money ran out on the meter. The booming soundtrack was supposed to be vibrant and street and pulsating, but was a droning headache that often drowned out what was happening on the screen. It's a minor gripe but the opening credits seem to run for an inordinately long time over the action. Again, distracting.

That said, Good Time runs like a barfly narrative of bad luck catching up. The acting is great throughout and Pattinson shines as Connie: grubby, compromised, smart and charming but ultimately unable to shake his own sordid meanness. It's also a pity though that Nick - brilliantly played, and a fascinating character - is reduced to a McGuffin for the majority of the film.

The 70th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 17-28 May. For more coverage, follow this link.

John Bleasdale | @drjonty

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