There are films with aim to be simply enjoyable, turn-off-your-brain spectacles. Then, there are cinematic experiences. Good Time falls into the latter category of being a unqiue experience unlike much of what I’ve seen in 2017.
It’s clear from the first sequence of events which space directors Benny and Josh Safdie wanted to place their audience, and that’s in uncomfortable and unorthodox situations. One half of the Nikas brothers, Nick (Benny Safdie), is introduced in the midst of a therapy session, where we feel his frustration in trying to express his feelings and emotions. Nick is clearly battling with internal emotion that has weighed on his life and, on top of that, is deaf. We briefly hear Nick and his psychatrist, Peter (Peter Verby), discuss Nick hurting someone. Not before long does a door open and the camera quickly shift and zoom into Connie Nekias (Robert Pattinson). Connie’s look of bewilderment and shouts of “You don’t need to be here! Come on!” make up the moments before their successful bank heist, where they both prove to be smarter than they look.
It’s hard to miss the sound design the Safdie brothers and Ryan M. Price crafted for Good Time. The soundtrack is a sensory overload, with high-pitched synth tracks and thumping bass lines that demanded my attention. I felt it was a bit too harsh, however, in the first act of the film. Whether my ears simply adjusted to the noises or not, I felt it might’ve been laid on too thick at times when you’re trying to pay attention to dialogue and action on-screen.
As the film progresses past its introduction into the criminal lifestyle of the Nekias brothers, we are able to see our characters fleshed out. Connie seems to be all-in on stealing money, while Nick’s body language showed he was just along for the ride, looking for words of affirmation from his brother and to make good on a mistake. This small opening sequence is a testament to the superb acting of both Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie, who, yes, drop F-bombs often, but play to the environment that’s consumed them.
I won’t lie: I doubted Pattinson’s ability to act after the Twilight saga, and to be fair, I never gave him another chance. He blew me away with how much he became the character of Connie and displayed a scum bag, low-life criminal. There wasn’t a second where his character became unbelievable, and this is quite frankly one of the best acting jobs of the young 2017 film season.
Set in New York, the city that hardly sleeps, Good Time is a film that adhears to its city’s reputation and never slows down. During most moments, I found myself catching my breath and trying to process what it was I witnessed. This isn’t a film that reserves harsh moments that add to its gritty nature. The film numbed me to the point that when we join Ray (Buddy Duress) on his acid trip which landed him in jail, it almost felt … normal? Oh, boy, this film, man.
There’s not much of an impact by Good Time‘s supporting cast because its main cast was great enough to carry the film, but it was interesting to note the screen time actor Barkhad Abdi — you know, this guy — gained during a very crucial sequence inside an amusement park, which intensified my hate for Connie and Ray.
I think what separates this film from being simply a wild ride are its dynamic layers. I saw the film evolve from being simply a bank heist to a character-driven study of the human nature. Who are we when we’re at our most desperate? How far are we willing to go to get what we want? It’s all so interesting, and the Safdie brothers challenged me as a viewer. I was finding myself almost taking my eyes off the screen during a very … uncomfortable scene. But these moments are what fuel its drive.
There’s brutality to a tale that seemed so basic on the surface. It’s not a film for those who can’t handle harsh times and humanity painted outside the lines, along with the grime felt after viewing Good Time. I said to my girlfriend after the screening ended that this is going to be the sleeper hit of the year, but heck, it deserves to be labeled as one of the biggest hits of the year.
I attended a press screening of “Good Time” for the purposes of this review thanks to Allied Integrated Marketing and A24. ❤
“Good Time” debuts in North America on Aug. 25, 2017, is rated R and runs 1 hour and 40 minutes.