Wild night makes indie crime thriller a must-see

The tense and twisty crime caper “Good Time” is not only a low-budget thriller that out-thrills most of this year's Hollywood offerings, it's also anchored by a performance that would be star-making if its actor wasn't already a star.

Here's a sentence I didn't expect to type in 2017, but one of the breakout performances of the year goes to Robert Pattinson. You know, the guy from “Twilight.”

“Good Time” is a movie so fast-paced that its complexities hit you later. It's a movie that leaves you catching your breath.

In a remarkable opening scene — and one of the few moments with time for reflection — we see Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie, who also co-directs with his brother, Josh), a developmentally disabled man in the middle of a court-ordered session with a psychiatrist.

It's clear that Nick is there because he's committed a violent act, and it's also clear that he doesn't grasp the repercussions. As the session appears to reach a breakthrough, Nick's brother, Connie (Pattinson), bursts into the room and leads his brother out.

Connie and Nick then stage a bank robbery that seems at first like a slick heist but quickly unravels, setting up a wild night that unfolds across the cold streets of Queens.

From its opening minutes to the final credits, “Good Time” manages more wild turns than could ever be expected from what first appears to be a standard crime flick, albeit one with a deceptive title.

The Safdie brothers heighten the effect of the plot with intense, up-close camerawork from cinematographer Sean Price Williams that has a jittery, kinetic energy that's also somehow far more focused than most handheld work.

Pattinson's Connie is a man thrown into a wild night via his own actions. Through a mix of bad decisions and worse luck, his increasing desperation is fascinating. He's no criminal mastermind, and some of his manipulations of innocent people make him anything but the hero.

Pattinson brings out the layers in Connie in subtle ways, from the motivation of his love for his brother to his violent impulses and general sociopathic tendencies. It's a hell of performance.

The rest of the cast is a mix of amateur actors, in some cases cast on the streets of New York, and two Oscar nominees in small parts (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi).

Trust me when I say that I haven't given that much away. “Good Time” is an hour and 40 minutes of heart-attack intensity with unexpected themes (mental health, racism, poverty). It's definitely time well spent in a theater.