Movie Reviews

REVIEW: Good Time

A24 is one of the most important distribution companies we’ve seen over the past couple of years. Sure, their social media presence may come off as overly pretentious but, if you take a look at their filmography, you will see that they put their money where their mouth is. Good Time, directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, is a perfect example of this.

After a botched bank robbery lands his younger brother in prison, Constantine “Connie” Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey through the city’s underworld in an increasingly desperate and dangerous attempt to get his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of jail. Over the course of one adrenaline filled night, Connie finds himself in a mad descent into violence and mayhem as he races against the clock to save his brother and himself.

I’m glad we got this film this week as I was almost ready to call the last weekend of August “January 2.0.” As of now, I’m not sure any film will top Good Time for me anytime soon.

Everyone in the cast was great, but easily the best performance in the film belonged to Robert Pattinson. His raw charisma is so magnetic that he brings out incredible performances from everyone he works with. Awards season is likely to be competitive this year, but Pattison’s work in Good Time is worthy of recognition.

Some of those other great performances include Talia Webster’s Crystal, a 16 year old girl who accompanies Connie on this adventure. This was her feature debut, and she was excellent. She perfectly balanced the rest of the cast. There’s also Buddy Duress who plays Ray, a recent parolee who Connie breaks out of a hospital after confusing him for his brother. This is his second collaboration with the Safdie Brothers, having previously appeared in Heaven Knows What. I see a bright future for him as a character actor, if not a leading man. His chemistry with Pattinson was great. I wish we could have seen them work together even more. Those two were the bigger supporting characters, but Jennifer Jason Leigh as Corey Ellman, a friend of Connie’s, and Barkhad Abdi as Dash, the security guard at an abandoned amusement park played great smaller supporting roles that were no less important than the others.

Josh and Benny Safdie are two insanely talented individuals. What I find fascinating is that the only credit they share is directing. Other than that, they each wear different hats. Josh co-wrote the screenplay alongside Ronald Bronstein, while Benny did much more of the heavy lifting. Not only was he, along with Bronstein, running the editing bay, he also stars in the film as Connie’s younger brother Nick. While he may not have as much screen time as Pattinson, his character is very much the heart of the film. Every decision that Connie makes, no matter the consequences, are done for his brother. As obvious as it may sound, this film that was written and directed by two brothers perfectly captured the strength of a brotherly bond. Their relationship reminded me of a cross between George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men and the Babbitt brothers from Rain Man

At no point did I ever find the story to be predictable. This was in large part because the Safdie Brothers did such a good job at placing the audience in the same headspace as our main character. The movie never lets you forget that Connie is a con artist who never really has a clear plan outside of rescuing his brother. Born and raised in both Queens and Manhattan, Josh and Benny know this city like the back of their hand, and it clearly shows throughout their filmography. These young and scrappy filmmakers show clear influences from past crime dramas, specifically those directed by Martin Scorsese. This isn’t just a Scorsese rip off, however. It has its own unique visual style. Sean Price Williams the cinematographer, and a frequent collaborator with both Safdie Brothers and fellow indie filmmaker, Alex Ross Perry, does great work in Good Time.

It is extremely difficult to point out any negatives without playing Devil’s Advocate (and giving away minor spoilers). For example, I’d completely understand if people have a hard time rooting for a protagonist who is kind of an asshole. Connie may have a strong bond with his brother, but he doesn’t care about anyone else. The people he comes across in the film are just a means to an end, and their lives are probably now ruined as a result of meeting Connie. Crystal, arguably the most innocent of the main characters, is arrested for trespassing that abandoned theme park simply because she stepped out of the car.

Finally, the score, composed by experimental electronica artist Oneohtrix Point Never, is awesome. This is yet another element that adds to Good Time‘s unpredictably energetic vibe. The film closes out with a powerful song featuring Iggy Pop called “The Pure and the Damned,” a title that accurately describes the range of characters we meet throughout the film.

As soon as Awards Season kicks into high gear, I will be campaigning hard for Good Time. This is seriously the best film of the year and I want as many people as possible to see this immediately. I hope the Safdie Brothers find long term success as writers and directors, and that audiences finally embrace Robert Pattinson as the star he is destined to be. Go support this movie if you want to see more originality on the big screen.

10/10

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