Good Time (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, US, 2017, 102 mins.

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi

Review by George Meixner

This Robert Pattiinson vehicle drives at a hectic pace swerving in and out of danger as a bank heist falters and a trail of destruction follows.

From then on his character seeks to save his mentally ill brother. It’s a thrill, but with such thrills come the inevitable comedowns when reality jolts back into view; a let down in a film which reaches for a deeper resonance that isn’t present on the screen.

Connie (Pattinson) is the brains and his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) is the support as they attempt to rob a bank with rubber masks for disguise – this was based on a real robber the Safdies became interested in. It goes surprisingly well, for a time. As one brother faces jail, the other spends the film seeking the money to bail him and then shifts to a more extreme plan. This is the meat of Good Time; a series of desperate and occasionally farcical moves until there’s nowhere else to run. The excitement and tension are powerful, but aside Pattinson’s performance and the Safdie’s grimy neon lens, there’s not the depth it thinks it has.

It is The RPattz Show, he’s in just about every scene, and it’s intentional. He wanted to work with the Safdies and in return they went to great lengths to create Connie Nikos, a New York marginal, especially for him, seeing the potential he had to fill the role and breathe a gritty reality into it. So, it’s largely RIP RPattz as he is transformed and distanced from his franchised past. Cosmopolis and The Lost City of Z saw him break the mould, but here he fills and shapes one himself. Connie is a grubby yet charming quick-talker, easy to get into trouble but always ready with the next crazed move to escape it. Frenzy and latterly peroxide-blonde dye help Pattinson disappear and avoid his celebrity becoming a distraction.

The bond of brotherhood is hardly the bedrock that synopses intimate for this film. Connie removes Nick from the institutional help he is getting. Perhaps this system is a terrible thing, but the better alternative being to rob the bank is all well and good in a cookie-cutter action movie, but if you want a serious discussion of the consequences it’s hardly believable. Once things go wrong Nick virtually disappears and Connie’s decisions aren’t in his challenged brother’s best interests. While the events that are supposed to save Nick unfold, there is very little reference to him. They feel pretty selfish even if they are a means to an end.

The closing scene bookends Nick’s experience of institutions. It gives a glimpse of how his character could have factored more in the film to heighten the counterpoint to his brother. It plays out as the credits roll giving it a strange melancholy. This is the end. Does it condemn Nick? It is a positive change and a new beginning though? There’s too much subtext to this piece, requiring a lot of interpolation of other things, not seen, to lift it higher. This scene proves what is missing.

It looks great. It boulders along and has some passingly interesting landscape characters that enrich, the Safdies’ impoverished New York. Pattinson delivers as an utterly convincing citizen of its underbelly. It just takes itself too seriously, where it should simply be a good time.