Good Time, the Safdie Brothers’ new A24-distributed crime-thriller, kicks into action with an understated daylight bank heist.
After the money is exchanged via scribbled notes of threat, a concealed dye-pack leads to a crashed car and a pair of robbers on the run: our protagonist Constantine ‘Connie’ Nikas (Robert Pattinson) and his brother Nick, who has a learning disability (director Ben Safdie). The latter is quickly detained, with Connie’s ensuing maelstrom of an attempt to break him out of jail becoming the film’s ‘one rough night’ tale.
The explosive opener is nothing more than a set-up for the uncomfortable, clammy events to follow. Bennie and Josh Safdie don’t care for car chases and shootouts. Their view of New York brings to the forefront the gritty sideline-occupiers of those stories and displays them with an intensity we didn’t know they warranted. That intensity comes most overtly in the film’s style; the NY suburbs are bathed here in red-blue neon hue, with sweaty faces shot in frame-filling telephoto lenses to the sound of Oneohtrix Point Never’s pounding synth score. Unflinching performances of moral repugnancy and desperation are staged at odds with this mystical, enchanting haze, and we anxiously inhabit the liminal space between.
The mascot of Good Time’s foggy morality comes in the form of Robert Pattinson’s Connie. In Connie’s eyes, committing robbery with Nick in tow is more beneficial to him than the therapy sessions he pulls his brother from; “Are you feeling what I’m feeling right now?” Connie excitedly asks, post heist. He loves his brother for sure, but it’s a love drenched in toxicity. Exploiting others to deeply cringe-inducing extents, the panicked narrative allows this small-time hustler a surprising amount of murky depth, and he’s played to perfection by the American-accented, hooded, bleach blond man one would hesitate to call Robert Pattinson. This proves to be a superior thread in the actor’s string of uncommercial post-Twilight career moves. Gritty and mad-eyed, all memories of twinkling vampires disintegrate as we’re left with a powerhouse performance of early DeNiro calibre. His stare pincers the soul.
A harsh story of brotherly love, book-ended by one of the year’s most heart-wrenching final scenes, Good Time triumphs as a piece of both zealous style and affecting substance. It casts its neon light on the least-Hollywood corners of American crime with incredibly-directed execution – you won’t forget this Good Time in a long time.
(Image courtesy of Vulture)