A film review by Craig J. Koban December 18, 2017

GOOD TIME jj

2017, R, 100 mins.

 

Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas  /  Buddy Duress as Ray  /  Ben Safdie as Nick Nikas  /  Taliah Webster as Crystal  /  Jennifer Jason Leigh as Corey  /  Barkhad Abdi as Dash

Directed by Ben and Joshua Safdie  /  Written by Ronald Bronstein and Joshua Safdie

I have to be completely honest upfront in this review:  

Robert Pattinson has never been an actor that I would describe as having any level of range and/or charisma; I've rarely liked him in anything.  

Watching GOOD TIME, though, has forced me to re-evaluate that stance, seeing as former sparkly vampire heartthrob from TWILIGHT so fully immerses himself in his role here of a lowlife criminal that memories of Stephanie Meyers' laughably awful young adult series is all but forgotten.  His twitchy edginess that he brings to his lead character matches the unpredictably frenzied tone and visual chaos of the film overall.  GOOD TIMES is, throughout its running time, a relentlessly concocted mood piece largely because of Pattinson's deliriously unhinged performance, but too much of Joshua and Benny Safdie's nightmarish urban crime film feels too disorienting, disorganized, frankly cold and exhausting.   

That, and there's not much of an compelling underlining story here to be had, just a series of vignettes featuring a relative slew of degenerate lowlifes that are in constant states of debilitating crisis.  The core events of GOOD TIME takes place during one fateful evening following a very botched bank robbery, but beyond its bare premise there's simply not much narrative meat on this film's bones to make for an intriguing whole.  The story kicks off by introducing us to Pattinson's Constantine "Connie" Nikas, a small town crook that maintains a deeply supportive and protective love for his mentally challenged and partially deaf younger brother, Nick (co-director Benny Safdie).  In one of the film's better scenes - which opens the story - Connie takes it upon himself to break his baby brother out of a psych ward in order to team up for a potentially lucrative bank robbery in Queens that could set them up for the indefinite future.  Sporting hoodies and rubber face masks, the pair partake in their robbery and make a daring escape.   

 

 

Problems soon arise and begin to multiple at an alarming rate.  Firstly, they discover that an explosive red dye pack has been secretly inserted into the bank bag and blows up in the getaway car, causing it to crash.  The pair escape mostly unscathed, but are then quickly perused by more police officers, leaving Nick being captured with Connie just barely escaping.  Connie then decides to find a manner of securing the necessary bail money to get his sibling out of the slammer, but comes up short when his girlfriend Corey's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) essentially stolen credit card from her mother comes up declined when trying to render payment.  Things snowball worse when Connie discovers that Nick has been sent to intensive care after a very violent incident in jail with a fellow inmate.  In a last ditch Hail Mary move, Connie breaks his heavily bandaged up brother out of the hospital...only later to realize that he accidentally freed a complete stranger that looks suspiciously like Nick with his face covered.   

Discussing any more of what transpires in GOOD TIME would be engaging in full on spoilers, other than to say that Connie finds himself on a whole other series of misadventures with the poor criminal sap that he inadvertently freed from the hospital, which leads them both to some of the seedier areas of the city that's brimming with criminal scum.  One thing that GOOD TIME has going for it is its oppressively bleak and gritty ambience that makes the film almost sumptuously scuzzy.  The Safdie brothers give their film a richly textured look with a hyper-adrenalized forward momentum that aggressively takes no prisoners.  Complimenting the film's fine neon-hued portrait of New York is a sensationally effective synth heavy music score by Daniel Lopatin that drums up the film's already escalating sensation of dread and unease.  If there were one distracting element to the Sadfie brothers aesthetic then it would be their somewhat annoying predilection to shoot all of their characters in close ups, which perhaps adds to the film's stylistic sense of claustrophobia, but does regrettably leave the film feeling - no pun intended - too in your face for its own good. 

On top of the film's oftentimes breathless pacing and haunting sense of environmental decay is, again, Pattinson's full steam ahead performance, which becomes a bravura showcase reel of just how fully the young actor can acclimate himself to a role that's filled with such unendingly twitchy energy.  Like many on-screen criminals, Connie is a beleaguered man that's constantly bombarded by the consequences of many horrible decisions, some of which are almost poetically cruel, others which revel in his own stupidity.  Pattinson feels wholly equal to the challenge of infusing in this black hole of trouble a nervous pathos; he rarely feels like he's ever going to calm down.  The actor also relays more subtle layers to his crook, like an inescapable brotherly bond that he has with his flesh and blood and the very fanatical lengths that he goes to in order to ensure his cognitively unstable brother's emotional and physical well being.  I rarely have ever said this about any film featuring Pattinson, but his exhilarating and tour de force turn here is what makes GOOD TIME so undeniably potent and ultimately watchable. 

Yet, I just wished that GOOD TIME had more story ambition with its deranged and lost characters.  Aside from being a fairly powerful tone piece that evokes genuine uneasiness in viewers on multiple levels, this crime film is ostensibly about a botched bank robbery and the ensuing getaway chase the crooks have with police...and that's about it.  For a film that's nearly two hours long, GOOD TIME begins to wear out its welcome by around the halfway point, especially when one considers that you're having to spend the entirety of it with deeply toxic human beings that are anything but likeable.  There's also an off-puttingly cavalier manner that the Safdies use women as props in the film, especially the great Jennifer Jason Leigh, who's saddled with a nothing girlfriend role that's quickly introduced in the film, and then dispatched relatively quickly, never really to be heard from again.  Beyond that, GOOD TIMES is a nihilistically cold and dark film that made me feel very little for anyone or anything in it; visually, this film is dynamite, but emotionally it left me feeling empty. 

I was nearly going to give GOOD TIME a passable three-star rating with reservations, mostly because it totally deserves to be seen by those that have all but written off Pattinson as a talentless actor (which I certainly did before screening it).  I'm glad I saw this film, mostly because as a virtuoso and revelatory performance showpiece, it's stupendously effective.   The film revolving around this surprisingly explosive piece of acting, though, wasn't particularly involving.  When all was said and done, when GOOD TIMES built towards its climax and then to a very odd and ambiguous epilogue I felt deep dissatisfaction.  This is an exceptionally well acted and beautifully stylized film that's pretty soulless overall.  GOOD TIME gets under your skin, alright, but I found myself wanting to wash the experience away from me immediately after screening it, leaving it a peculiarly contradictory work. 

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