Synopsis – 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.
My Take – Now days, low budget thrillers have become so peculiarly grounded in reality that despite a few unrealistic plot points, the story keeps going & manages to get us so hooked that it doesn’t even matter. Here, this Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie directed film is made with such a tight grip, that you feel as edgy as its protagonist stuck in a claustrophobic rat trap, as it constantly ups the stakes and keeps you invested thanks to its blend of tension and humor. With its engaging and nail-biting story line, the whole film feels like a panic attack; thanks to the tight and intense camera-work, Daniel Lopatin‘s throbbing score, and yet another brilliant performance from Robert Pattinson. This is definitely one of those films that I need to re-watch in order to come up with something meaningful to say about it, and I am looking forward to that as it is entertaining through and through. Taking place over the course of a single day in New York, the story follows Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson), a short-tempered, manipulative psychopath who decides to pull off a bank robbery along with his mentally disabled brother, Nick (Benny Safdie). However, the heist goes awry, the brothers get separated and Nick is arrested. What follows is a series of Connie’s mistakes, manipulations and misjudgments which bring him into contact with Corey Ellman (Jennifer Jason-Leigh), his sometime girlfriend, and a teenage girl Crystal (Taliah Webster), a drug dealer (Buddy Duress), a security guard (Barkhad Abdi) and others who are affected by Connie’s well-meaning, but misguided attempts to come up with $10,000 in bail money to spring Nick from prison.
Making excellent use of available resources and well aware of its limitations, the film makes every single minute of its runtime count and is intense from its opening moments. Featuring a no nonsense plot and jam-packed with textured visuals, slick editing & an awesome score on top of Robert Pattinson‘s smashing performance, it is a thrilling ride from start to finish. The film is so surprisingly fresh and unique, that I can’t help but rave about it. It’s stylized in a familiar genre way, but the story and characters are so original and different (than almost any other film out there), that you can’t help but be completely captivated by every minute of it. The characters are mostly unlikable, and the entire setting is pretty depressing and disturbing, but the film leaves a very memorable impression by its conclusion. This film explores the idea of that one misstep, one mistake that can turn things from good to bad in a split second. It was so interesting seeing a character like this and his constant attempts of digging himself out of this issue and situation that he has gotten himself into. More interestingly the futility of these attempts as we see him struggle but keep working against himself where one wrong move leads him to dead end after dead end, not only so but the walls are slowly closing in. Directed by the Safdie brothers, the film jumps to the good stuff straightaway and doesn’t concern itself with setting the premise or properly introducing its characters. Instead, it switches to top gear right off the bat, without worrying about the consequences, and then rides on that momentum for the remainder of its run-time and the directors do a terrific job to keep things tight & gripping until the very end. The direction of this film is really energetic and eerie, with much of the film made using real locations and non professional actors. This makes the films various twists and turns palpably plausible. For example at one point the characters end up in a Dominos Pizza, desperate to hide. This moment comes off as entirely realistic and earned, where as in another film it would come off as contrived. The film becomes a fairly “good time” for the expectant film-goer through a series of twists and turns in the plot. The first twist occurs after Connie and Nick commit the bank robbery—all seems like it’s going to plan until a dye pack explodes in the bag of cash inside the getaway car. The clock begins ticking as the brothers must figure out how to scrub the dye off their faces and avoid the cops who have now flooded the area. There’s a great little scene in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant where Connie frantically directs Nick on how to clean up and later how to comport himself when stopped by the police. The twists keep coming when the brothers are stopped by the police and Nick panics–foolishly making a run for it—only to end up falling through a glass window and captured by the men in blue. The characters in the film may not be quite as dumb as the characters in the Coen Brothers’ crime comedies, but they’re quite rudderless.
Nikas knows that his main objective is his brother, but he doesn’t have a clear plan. He’s got bits and pieces of what can be considered close to a plan but for the most part, he just wings it, which makes this whole thing hilarious. It’s as if the script intentionally throws a curve ball at him, every other five minutes or so, you see him encounter unexpected blunders, mostly of his own doing as he’s winging it from one cluster- mess after another. He’s always on the go. Even if you disregard the tight story that keeps you guessing, this is a great film. It’s expertly shot; the use of music and the general tone give it a distinct identity. The film excels in its visuals. Directors Safdie brothers adore neon light, which leads to many memorable neon-drenched sequences, such as an extended sequence in a haunted-house theme park that reels in the tension. Much of the film takes place at night, allowing for some atmospheric, neo-noir vibes to come to the fore. Sequences such as the mayhem in an amusement park and a hospital teeter on the surreal while the frenetic action continues apace. Much credit must go to Sean Price Williams‘ cinematography, which could have been the standard jittery hand held if it weren’t so elegantly moving the characters through the night with frenetic abandon and inevitable doom. What also must be credited is the unrelenting pace of the film, living up to its cheeky title through constantly escalating stakes, a thunderously exciting electronic score and a plot that keeps throwing delightfully absurd and insane twists to keep you constantly engaged. The film been likened a lot to Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet‘s taut and incredible bank-heist-gone-wrong film, and it’s a comparison that is apt, if a bit flattering; the Safdie brothers come close to matching that film’s inspired lunacy and delirious tension, through a decidedly more modern aesthetic. As good a time the film is though, it’s not perfect there’s a long time in the middle section when Connie takes a break from the action and it’s a while before the film picks up, and of course the fast pacing may not make it tolerable for a casual film-goer. Then, there are the performances. Robert Pattinson proves once again to be one of the most underrated young actors in Hollywood. Yes, he has come a long way from the Twilight series, being the actor I am sure he wanted to be beyond his somber character in the famous series. As an ashen-faced, stubble-laden, nervy-eyed criminal thrust into a constantly escalating trip into the recesses of city nightlife, where stakes are always high, Pattinson relishes in the opportunity to inhabit this character and fully realize all his traits. His pretty-boy-image disappears into an expertly assembled composite of an agitated desperate loser. Ben Safdie also does really well as the mentally ill brother while Jennifer Jason Leigh, Taliah Webster, Buddy Duress & Barkhad Abdi provide good support in their given roles and play their part sensibly. On the whole, ‘Good Time’ is a stylishly directed & brilliantly performed edge of your seat thriller that is not just captivating, but also one of the coolest films to surface this year.
Rated – R
Run Time – 101 minutes