By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
From Ben and Josh Safdie, the acclaimed filmmakers who wrote and directed Heaven Knows What and Lenny Cooke, comes this gritty, seedy, adrenaline-fueled crime drama that plays out like a wild comedy of errors and bad decisions. The title of the film may be Good Time, but the main characters of this movie are clearly not having a good time at all. Audiences, however, will be captivated, often amused and sometimes shocked with the misadventures of two brothers after they attempt to pull off a bank robbery. Audiences will also be rather impressed with actor Robert Pattinson who delivers a phenomenal performance as the chief protagonist.
Pattinson stars as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, a bit of a con artist who persuades his mentally disabled brother Nick (Ben Safdie) to partner with him for a poorly conceived bank robbery. During the job, the two brothers succeed in walking out of the bank with some money, but are eventually spotted by police alerted by the bank. Connie manages to get away, but the not-so-quick thinking (and not-so-quick on his feet) Nick gets taken into police custody. Connie’s original plan was to run away with Nick to another country after the heist. Since his plans go sour, he is determined by any means necessary to help his brother escape. He proceeds with another poorly conceived plan that takes him on a bizarre journey that lasts all night.
Written by Josh Safdie and Joshua Brownstein, Good Time offers tense thrills, uproarious comedy, and characters that are compelling despite their illicit activities and not-so-admirable motivations and qualities. The Safdies bring back the dark and sordid side of New York which inspired some of Martin Scorsese’s crime films. The extraordinary cinematography by Sean Price Williams beautifully captures the squalor and urban decay of Good Time‘s Queens, New York, along with the multi-colored glowing lights at night. The visuals and activity on screen definitely get enhanced by the sublime electronic score by Oneohtrix Point Never. The music gives the film a driving pulse and also creates an atmospheric mood for various scenes in the film.
As I stated above, Robert Pattinson is the main star of this remarkable film and he performs much like his character–with excellent timing, the fast-talking, fast-thinking delivery of a smooth con man and with the passion and intensity of a desperate criminal doing whatever it takes to stay out of jail. It truly is an absolutely captivating turn for a tremendously talented actor who has finally gotten the chance to really shine. It is a performance that I hope gets some acknowledgement during awards season.
The film also features a superbly poignant turn by Ben Safdie who not only shows his writing and directing chops with this movie, but also performs exceptionally as Connie’s mentally disabled and somewhat emotional brother Nick. Jennifer Jason Leigh also makes quite an entertaining impression as Connie’s dysfunctional girlfriend Corey. I was also really impressed with the acting of young actress Taliah Webster who makes her feature film debut in the role of Crystal, and Safdie film regular Bobby Duress who is quite memorable as Ray, a man unwittingly caught up with Connie’s prison break scheme.
I must also acknowledge the fact that the Safdie brothers use their story to recognize the racial disparities and prejudices that often occur with criminals and innocent victims caught in the middle. One scene that features an awesome cameo by Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) illustrates this superbly and intelligently. The Safdie brothers have created a fascinating and remarkable crime film that does more than offers cheap thrills. They have made a movie that addresses social issues.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The Safdies don’t go about it in any overtly preachy ways. Everything that happens in the movie plays out very naturally and realistically. It really is an exceptional film about crime, the mindset of a desperate, but smooth talking criminal and how everything can go insanely wrong. It is certainly a film that I highly recommend for its skillful filmmaking, electric story telling and amazing acting.