Good Time review: The Safdie brothers, Josh and Benny unite with Hollywood heartthrob Robert Pattinson for this thrilling drama revolving around a heist movie gone bad.
Good Time review by Paul Heath, May 2017.
The opening shot is grand – a sweeping vista of New York City, the camera seemingly drone-mounted moving slowly towards a windowed high-rise on the south side of Manhattan. With this opening image, reminiscent of the first frames of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which was the start of the magnificent bank robbery that introduced us to Heath Ledger’s Joker for the first time, one would almost expect to be transported straight to the heist at the centre of the narrative, but this is clearly not the case as we immediately cut to a close up on the face of Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie). Nick is being interviewed and looks to be being asked a series of uncomfortable questions by a therapist. This is brought to an abrupt close as said therapy session is interrupted by Robert Pattinson’s Connie, Nick’s brother who hoists him out onto the street, other things clearly on his mind.
Related: The first poster for Good Time
It’s not long before the action is relocated to a small bank in Flushing, New York, the duo now wearing really rather impressive masks, full-faced rubbery ones covering everything including their exposed necks to not reveal any exposed skin. The robbery is far from grand and explosive, the two clear amateurs opting to pass hand-written notes across the counter rather than use excessive force, but it works nonetheless. The two escape with the cash, which of course is riddled with dye so naturally explodes in their faces as they flee in an escape car (or is it an Uber?). A resulting chase involving the pair ends with Nick being captured by the authorities, the rest of the film made up of Connie attempting to free him by using any means necessary.
All the above mostly happens before the title sequence, which is inserted rather strangely nearly twenty minutes into this 100-minute movie. The film has the grandness of a mainstream Hollywood action movie, particularly during the first third, with an overall European feel. The title card at the beginning has the throw-back nod at the films of old with the Roman numerals flashing up under the Good Time logo, which feels very retro, as does cinematographer Sean Price Williams’ wonderful hand-held camerawork which is beautiful to watch. The titles also state that a ‘street caster’ was employed by the production, which obviously contributes to the many naturalistic performances throughout. You also have Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi getting top-billing with the main leads, but their roles are limited to just one scene each, and frankly, both feel very wasted here.
The same can’t be said for the impressive Benny Sadfie in his acting capacity. He is mesmerising as Nick, a very well-written and performed deaf character at the beating heart of the story. Buddy Duress is also skilled in performing as Ray, a key character who is introduced halfway through this winding story. Nods must go to the young actress Taliah Webster, key to the film’s narrative, but it is absolutely Robert Pattinson’s film, the young actor once again demonstrating his capacity and range in a commanding, robust performance as Connie. This is perhaps Pattinson’s best performance yet, the actor hypnotic in every frantic scene as his character’s world continues to spiral out of control.
Good Time has so much depth in terms of what it is trying to convey, reminding us very much of the early work of Nicolas Winding Refn, which is not only due to its genre, but also the stunning, building, booming music soundtrack laced through it.
Intense, sometimes emotional, and full of well-written characters with tons of frenetic energy from its two directors, Good Time is one of the biggest surprises, and indeed one of the best crime movies of the year. You will have a Good Time indeed.
Good Time review by Paul Heath, May 2017
Good Time is currently playing at the Sydney Film Festival and will be released in cinemas later in the year.