Good Time is a crime thriller on bad drugs, so intense and unrelenting in its sense-assaulting adrenaline-pumpin’ hand-held-shakin’ action that it leaves you disorientated. Great performances and highly impressive stylistically, but otherwise a bit light on.
Good Time begins like a lit fuse, with a shrink treading carefully in attempting to psychologically assess intellectually impaired patient Nick (played by Benny Safdie, who co-directs the film with brother Josh). Nick appears agitated by the questions being put to him. That’s not good. He’s big and looks like he could erupt any moment. The door is flung open by Nick’s bro Connie (Robert Pattinson), who busts him outta there, leaving the shrink agog.
Connie’s rescue of Nick is well-intentioned – he clearly cares dearly for his bro – but his plans for the two of them are ill-conceived. Actually, they’re not conceived at all, and this is the key to the characters in Good Time. They want the world and they want it now. They ain’t gonna manage that by studying, or working their way up the ladder rung by rung over years. They’re far too ADD for long-term goals, or balancing risk against reward, or planning. They’re poor, they’re from Queens, they’re petty crims. They hustle, deal, whatever.
The ‘whatever’ in Connie’s case is to up the ante by robbing a bank – with Nick! His main challenge as they stand before a teller wearing rubber masks is to convince his toey bro not to rip off his irritating disguise. Somehow, they do the job and make their getaway, but when they grab a passing cab and have a peek at their loot a red dye bomb goes off in their faces. They flee the cab, are spotted by a passing cop patrol and it’s game on!
Nick ends up being caught, beaten up in the clink and hospitalised, and the rest of the flick takes place over a single frenetic night, as Connie pulls out all stops to rescue him.
The standout aspect of Good Time is the Safdie brothers’ directorial style. It’s something like the cinematic equivalent of Spector’s “wall of sound”, or The Ramones’ first album, in that the intensity is dialled way up and unrelenting. Everything is dramatic, in-yer-face, a sensual assault.
There are extreme facial close-ups, the most startling since Goodfellas. The pace is frantic, at least for the first half; it flags a bit thereafter, as the narrative swerves about like a stolen car on a joyride with stoned underage drivers at the wheel. The psycho electro-rock soundtrack sizzles away throughout, randomly erupting in dirty noise like a sulky volcano, sometimes making the dialogue hard to hear (the mumbling characters are equally to blame). Doesn’t matter much, if at all. This is not Shakespeare.
What counts here is that the direction works, all elements combining to create a nightmarish bad-drug-trip atmosphere as Connie navigates his way through a long, desperate and at times violent underworld night with randomly acquired accomplices in quest of freeing Nick and finding a place in the sun against impossible odds.
All the performances are terrific. Robert Pattinson is mesmerising.
Tonally, there needed to be more light and shade. The intensity becomes wearing over time for want of contrast. And in the end, you leave the cinema spent and disorientated, but without much to take away other than the atmospheric experience. As intriguing as the edgy live-for-the-moment characters are, and as well-performed, you don’t care enough about them to emotionally invest.
The Safdie brothers are an exciting new arrival on the scene, there’s no doubt about that. However, Good Time is a film of promise – big promise – rather than promise realised.
Good Time screening dates (2017-18 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival):
UWA Somerville: 4 Dec-10 Dec 2017, 8pm
ECU Joondalup Pines: 12 Dec-17 Dec 2017, 8pm
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