Good Time (2017)
Director: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Set one stressful night on the murky streets of New York City, Good Time is a tense and gripping crime thriller following one man's ferocious attempt to save his mentally challenged brother from the very mess that he put him in. Following a bank robbery gone wrong, Connie (Pattinson) tirelessly tries to bail out his brother Nick (Safdie) from a dangerous prison, leading him down continuously spiralling path.
Directed by Benny Safdie along with his real-life brother Josh Safdie, this film employs a brilliantly invasive style of filmmaking. With a camera which won't sit still, Good Time seems to be perpetually on the move, even during its less energetic scenes, while the lens is often located less than 10 inches away from any of the actors' faces, denying anyone any personal space. Visually, Good Time is fully immersive, and is also armed with an incredibly intense and expressive electronic score from Oneohtrix Point Never, which perfectly mimics the current emotional state of Pattinson's character. Good Time wants to have you very much involved in this story, and achieves it with a staggering immediacy.
Robert Pattinson delivers what may be a career best as the misguided but fiercely loyal (to his brother, at least) Connie, an oddly likeable misfit on a frantic mission to protect his vulnerable brother at the expense of all those around him. Pattinson's increasing desperation is wildly infectious - his enduring stress will become your enduring stress. Benny Safdie also delivers a superb performance as Pattinson's often vacant on-screen brother Nick, despite his contribution only bookending the film. The film perhaps suffers from a lack of context around their relationship, at least from the perspective of Nick - his motivations and feelings towards his own behaviour and that of his brother mostly remains unexplained, leaving the film's final image decidedly ambiguous. Arguably, this has simply left space for the viewer to make their own interpretations, but a little more flesh around Nick's character may have helped to build on the richness of the bond between him and his brother Connie.
Most peculiar, however, is the film's structure. What you would typically find towards the end of a film is situated right at the start, beginning with a tense bank robbery which essentially forms the film's introduction. The stakes are low at this point, being given little time to identify with or even learn much about the film's leading characters. It's almost as if the film has been written in reverse, beginning with its climax, from which point it seems to have little to build towards other than a logical conclusion. As a result, the film seems to lose its impetus during its final act and takes ever so slightly too long to get to its point, with a 30 minute chunk towards the film's end being largely irrelevant.
Regardless, Good Time remains a gripping and immersive urban thriller despite running out of gas during the second half, and is led by a fantastically panicked if not two-dimensional performance from Robert Pattinson. The story's limited depth prevents this film from straying into the realm of a character study, but its exhaustingly engaging camera-work works exceptionally hard to keep you invested - hard work which will likely pay off.
In one line: Good Time is determined to have you share in the chaos of its story, and achieves this through the use of committed performances and erratic sensory cues.