Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language throughout, Violence, Drug Use and Sexual Content
Directed by: Ben Safdie & Josh Safdie
Written by: Josh Safdie & Ronald Bronstein
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress, Taliah Webster & Necro
GOOD TIME is an independent crime-drama that wasn’t exactly a hit at the box office, but made a big impression on the festival circuit. Some folks have even gone as far as to compare this flick to Martin Scorsese’s early work and that comparison is completely valid. Shot in an unconventional style and brimming with seedy plot points, this film might rub certain viewers the wrong way. If you’re a fan of gritty crime-dramas that push the envelope of what is appropriate and dig on arthouse cinema, then GOOD TIME is likely up your alley.
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) wants to make some quick cash by robbing a bank. In an effort to make this seemingly simple job go by as easily as possible, Connie enlists the help of his mentally challenged brother Nick (Ben Safdie, who also co-directed this film) as back-up. The robbery goes wrong and Nick is hauled off to Rikers Island. Worried that his brother won’t survive the night in a holding cell, a desperate Connie scrambles to get together 10 thousand dollars to secure his sibling’s release. This night-long journey puts Connie in some tricky scenarios and forces him to come face-to-face with unsavory individuals as his situation increasingly goes from bad to worse.
When I say that GOOD TIME is shot in an unconventional style, I mean that the Safdie brothers like using close-ups…lots of them. In fact, there are hardly any wide shots or establishing shots to be found in this film. There are a few of both that exist to give the viewer a bearing on where characters are or because an on-screen event requires more visual room, but that’s about it. 90% of this film is told with close-ups on characters faces and items. This style takes a few minutes to adjust to, but has a weird effect of sucking the viewer into the film. This movie’s technical aspects are just as impressive as the gritty race-against-time plot.
Speaking of which, GOOD TIME’s script threatens to become cliched and familiar at any given moment. We have a bank robbery gone wrong. There’s a disabled brother who placed into a dangerous situation. The events unfold over the space of a single night. The protagonist is running from place to place in search of a solution. However, GOOD TIME never once feels predictable or forced in its progression of going from bad to worse to “oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening” and this all makes for one hell of an intense cinematic ride.
Another remarkable quality in GOOD TIME arrives in the form of its protagonist, who one could easily describe as the scum of the earth. Robert Pattinson delivers an amazing performance as Connie, a man who has love for his brother…but it’s the wrong kind of love and his methods of showing it are downright detestable. There are moments where the viewer might almost be able to sympathize for Connie and then Pattinson’s character does something even more repugnant. This character is a dumbass and doesn’t have any redeemable qualities, but he sure makes for an extremely interesting lead and I never got bored while watching him.
This being said, GOOD TIME will likely make every audience member uncomfortable at some given point. There is a specific scene that knocked me senseless in how it progressed and I could not believe that the film went there. It was a disturbing moment that also felt like a bit of harsh realism that’s often passed up in gritty crime stories about trashy gangsters, run-down neighborhoods, and bad situations. You’ll know the scene that I’m talking about if/when you see this movie. Also, Ben Safdie’s portrayal of Connie’s mentally challenged brother (complete with a mumbled voice and slack-jawed appearance) doesn’t feel the least bit exploitative. That in and of itself is an impressive feat and his final on-screen moment is emotionally sound.
If there are any complaints to be found in GOOD TIME, it’s that the film has one flashback that feels completely unnecessary and briefly breaks the flow of following Connie’s neon-lit quest through New York’s scummy side. Put that one sequence aside and pretty much everything else about GOOD TIME blew me away. If you’re into gritty crime-dramas that make you want to take a shower afterwards, you’ll find an uncomfortably effective experience in GOOD TIME. If you appreciate unconventional filmmaking, you’ll love the technical craft of GOOD TIME. Finally, if you devour great pieces of cinematic art, you’ll find that GOOD TIME is actually a great time!