Good Time (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★
Directors Benny and Josh Safdie should give themselves a pat on the back for crafting a film that could have been ripped out of the ‘70s when gritty, unpredictable crime-thrillers roamed free. While there is not a shortage of films containing stories that unfold over the course of one night, few are memorable, effective, and capable of connecting with the audience without a typical or expected character arc. “Good Time” is pure style and energy. It dares to be seen without blinking because the filmmakers are uninterested in making compromises.
The plot involves a robbery attempt gone wrong by two brothers named Connie (Robert Pattinson) and Nick (Benny Safdie). Although the former is aware of his mentally challenged sibling’s limitations, he chooses to take Nick along for the ride anyway. I admired that the script does not provide a reason why Connie has taken this most unwise course of action. Throughout their interactions and from the way Connie looks at his brother, we can surmise that Connie is so desperate to connect with or share something he values with his brother, that anything at all will do—even if it involved crime. It assumes the viewers are observant. Although a crime-thriller, its dramatic core is defined and able to shine through despite genre conventions.
Pattinson’s interpretation of his character is fascinating because not for one second does he intend for us to like or root for Connie. He exhibits a complete understanding of the character because nearly every scene points to the fact that Connie is a loser, a liar, a user. He is not above throwing anybody under the bus so long as it gets him closer to his goal of freeing Nick from the police. Desperation reeks from every pore of the wanted man and Pattinson embodies the drowning character so well that I had forgotten I was watching a performance. His performance matches the level of intensity and intelligence of the script.
Tension-filled scenes are crafted with purpose and precision. For example, watch carefully in how the bank robbery is executed. It is not flashy, there is no music to guide us what to think or how to feel, the focus on the characters’ minute facial expressions, their hands, whether they are shaking or calm, how the bag of money is grabbed and handed from criminal to bank teller. Mainstream or Hollywood films would have involved a proclamation, “This is a robbery!” with accompanying shots of a gun or rifle. Screaming of patrons. Here, the directors mire the situation in silence. Their actions speak volumes. And because it is silent, we anticipate the possibility that something will go wrong very soon.
I found myself most drawn to the look of the film. Scenes shot in daylight and indoors appear to have a sort of filter between us and the New York City the picture presents. As a result, the colors appear rather muted as if to communicate that this is the way the main character sees and processes the world. Perhaps this is why he is so reckless because excitement paves the way for a brighter world. This observation connects to the idea of the brothers hoping to leave the city for greener pastures after the robbery. I think they are not only running from the police but also from the environment that shaped them.