Good Time (2017)

  • Time: 101 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
  • Cast: Robert Pattinson, Ben Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh


After a heist goes awry, a bank robber spends a night trying to free his mentally ill brother from being sent to Riker’s Island prison.

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  • Since the end of the popular tween romance fantasy Twilight saga, Robert Pattinson has been committed to proving himself more than just another pretty boy. Delivering interesting performances in films such as David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, David Michôd’s The Rover and, most recently, James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, Pattinson has been slowly but surely establishing himself as a character actor who happens to have heartthrob appeal. The actor puts forth his strongest showing to date in Good Time, the latest film from sibling directors Benny and Josh Safdie.

    As evidenced by their previous films Daddy Longlegs and Heaven Knows What, the Safdies are keen admirers of the grit and realism that defined Seventies films such as Scarecrow, Panic in Needle Park, Midnight Cowboy, and Dog Day Afternoon. There’s a sweat and grime to their often socially conscious and observant films that feels squirmingly authentic rather than mere simulacrums of their influences. Good Time is a genre film in the way that Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon was, very much working within the framework by following its tropes and yet elastic enough to have the Of Mice and Men dynamic between two brothers be the central engine of its propulsive caper.

    The film opens with a close-up of Benny Safdie’s Nick Nikas as he meets with a court-appointed psychiatrist (Peter Verby). Even before the allusive revelation that Nick may have suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his grandmother, it’s painfully clear that the young man is damaged in a way that cannot simply be attributed to his mental impairment. His older brother Connie (Pattinson) bursts in and whisks him away and, next they’re seen, the brothers are holding up a bank during a wordless but unbearably tense sequence. Though they initially get away with the money, Benny panics when a cop car approached and the two brothers hotfoot it, though only Connie manages to escape.

    With Benny in Rikers holding pen and, after getting beaten up, transported to Elmhurst Hospital, a frantic Connie tries to raise the money to get his brother freed. His up-all-night quest has him pinballing from one character to another in a desperate attempt to raise the needed $10,000: his older girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whose mother blocks her credit cards; sixteen-year-old Crystal (Talia Webster), whose Haitian grandmother offers Connie and his injured brother a room to stay in for the night; and Ray (Buddy Duress), a recently paroled small-time criminal whom Connie mistook for Nick when he wheeled him out of the hospital and with whom Connie joins forces to break into an amusement park to retrieve a bottle of LSD solution they could sell for cash. Needless to say, it’s a series of increasingly unfortunate events that is executed with a remarkable sense of narrative and visual authority by the Safdies.

    Relentlessly kinetic, the film often resembles one headlong hallucinogenic trip with its saturated colour palette, and Oneohtrix Point Never’s piercing electro-rock score (which garnered the Soundtrack Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival). There are scenes that really punch at the gut and throat, especially the last scenes of Nick as Iggy Pop croons “The Pure and the Damned” over the end credits. For all its adrenalised tricks and kicks, perhaps its most impressive achievement is how the Safdies thread subtle yet pointed racial commentary: the masks Connie and Nick don during the robbery give them the appearance of black men; white cops assuming the black amusement park security guard (Barkhad Abdi) is the intruder; and the innocent Crystal being arrested because her skin colour makes her an immediately suspicious figure.

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