Good Time Is A Pure Adrenaline Rush
Review by Aaron Haughton
Good Time is an electric thriller from Josh and Benny Safdie that will literally have you hanging from the edge of your seat. It's a sordid race against the clock drenched in neon and accompanied by a driving 80s synth score by Oneohtrix Point Never, à la Tangerine Dream's Sorcerer.
After a botched robbery lands his younger, mentally deficient brother, Nick (played by co-director Benny Safdie), in prison, Constantine "Connie" Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted peregrination through New York City in a desperate attempt to come up with the money to get him out of jail. During the journey, which unfolds over the course of one day, Connie descends into a downward spiral of mayhem as he scrambles to save himself and his brother.
From the very first scene this film grabs ahold of you and doesn't let go. If it's not hold-your-breath, jaw-slack-open, edge-of-your-seat tense, it's emotionally gripping with minor moments that allow you to breathe. Even a moment of paying for a bond with a credit card is made incredibly tense and stressful though the culmination of overlapping dialogue, score, and sporadic camerawork and editing.
It's by far the most memorable crime thriller in recent memory, and it had me arrested from the very beginning and left me ruined in the best possible way. I exited the theater still reeling, trying to wrap my head around everything that I'd just seen, trying to piece together the reasoning and rationale of the characters, trying to answer its many open-ended and unexplored questions. It's such a rare pleasure to be so floored by a film as I was with Good Time.
The title bears a bit of a dual irony. In the film, Connie was previously released from prison for his "good time," or behavior, and Nick's psychiatrist says, when leading him into a class of handicapped individuals, that he'll have a "good time" there. The title and context seems to bend behavior and experience, in the sense that Connie's behavior and the way in which we're left with his brother suggests anything but good or a good time. In fact, it may be the best bad time you've ever had at the theater.
The acting in the film is phenomenal and truly stamps a new high watermark for Pattinson. He's extensively tried to distance himself from the tween hit Twilight, and I think he's finally shed himself of his sparkly vampire skin. While people will no doubt be gushing over Pattinson's absolutely enamoring portrayal of the street smart slimy-slick Connie, very few may be gushing over Benny Safdie's portrayal of Nick, which is equally as jaw dropping.
There is a moment in the opening scene with Safdie lets a few stoic tears fall while answering the psychiatrist's word association questions. It's a heart wrenching introduction to the film that already has you internally asking so many questions (is he upset by the line of questioning? Maybe he realizes that he's not intellectually equipped? Is he hung up on previous events that we've not seen?), but it never allows you much pause for reflection during its taut 100 minute runtime.
The direction from the Safdie brothers is amongst the best of the year. They know when sporadic and handheld camerawork is effective and when it's appropriate to use static tripod and tracking shots. Everything is counterbalanced and weighted. They fully utilize the gorgeous cinematography of Sean Price Williams through mid and tight close ups which is soaked in red and blue neon. The use of the close up approach also allows the actor's emotions to bleed through, which tricks the audience into being wholly invested into a story about otherwise manipulative scum.
The relationship between Connie and Nick is somewhat similar to John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men; Nick is mentally unequipped, Connie feels the need to look after him and serve as protector, and they both have dreams of living on a farm, but it's much more than that. Connie has basically adopted this ideology that everything he holds dear is his brother, who is to him the embodiment of purity, which he wants so desperately to tap back into.
Connie refuses to believe his brother has any issue, and he holds deep resentment for institutional America and the bureaucratic trappings of America. He operates under the belief that you can't change the brain from the outside, so he makes an attempt to change his brother through experience. This explains why he takes his brother along to a bank robbery. The sentiment is good, but the execution is questionable; the very thing that Connie wishes to save his brother from is is own twisted doing.
The ending of the film will completely break your heart and leave you with so much to chew on, all of which is brought to a dramatic head by Onehotrix Point Never's "The Pure and The Damed" featuring Iggy Pop. The film is riddled with so many holy-shit breathtaking moments of tension and violence that it's important to remember to breathe. Once the film releases it's grip, you'll be left spinning in a daze, or rushed with so much adrenaline you won't be able to sleep at night.
In a lot of ways, the film is about brotherly love and the lengths we go to make sure our siblings are looked after. It's about a rehabilitated criminal struggling to rehabilitate, a brother failing to come to grips with his brother's condition. It's a study of good intention gone wrong, and it's one of the best films I've seen all year. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. Rush out and see this one while and if you can. The sound and bass driven score definitely merits a theater experience, if available.
Rating: 5 Sprite bottles filled with acid outta 5.
What do you think? Did you have a good time watching the film? Was it the best bad time you've had at the theaters? Did the film leave you totally ruined? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!