Good Time, 2017.
Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Taliah Webster, Buddy Duress and Barkhad Abdie.
Brothers Connie and Nik pull off a bank heist which, while it appears to go smoothly, ends up with the vulnerable Nik being caught and sent to Rikers. While inside, he’s badly beaten up, leaving Connie on the outside trying to raise the bail to set his brother free.
Shaking off that Twilight association hasn’t been easy for Robert Pattinson and it’s not for a lack of trying. Cosmopolis, Maps To The Stars and, more recently, The Lost City Of Z have all offered him opportunities to flex his acting muscles with varying degrees of success. Good Time could turn out to be what he’s been waiting for.
This comes from the Safdie brothers, Josh and Benny, who have created a mini Odyssey on the night time streets of New York with Pattinson as our guide. He’s Connie, the older of two brothers. The younger one, Nik (co-director Benny Safdie on double duty) has learning and hearing difficulties, as well as problems relating to other people. His latest assessment session opens the film – until Connie bursts in and whisks him away. Why he thought it would be a good idea to involve him in what turns out to be a bank robbery is never clear, but it’s probably not the best idea he’s had that day.
In fact, despite his resourcefulness, Connie’s ideas are always flawed and inevitably fall apart for one reason or another. Like persuading his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) – who he clearly taps for money on a regular basis – to pay for Nik’s bail on her credit card. He lies to her about how much it will be and, when she eventually tries to pay up, the card’s declined. Why? Because it belongs to her mother, who doesn’t trust Connie, and who has cancelled the card. You can’t blame her.
The aim of saving his brother evokes memories of Dog Day Afternoon. But his attempt at getting a heavily bandaged and sedated Nik out of hospital goes much in the same direction as the bank job. Except that this time it’s genuinely funny. Because the guy on the back seat of his car turns out to be a drunk, garrulous ex-con Ray (Buddy Duress) who relates at length how he ended up in hospital. That said, he may also have hit on a way that Connie can pay for Nick’s bail. It’s a bottle of liquid LSD. But it needs to be retrieved from an amusement park. At night.
The film never lets up and its only substantial weakness comes somewhere in the middle when it temporarily loses its grip, meandering off at a tangent. It’s all down to Ray’s near-monologue – not, it has to be said, because of Buddy Duress’s performance, but because of the writing and the sheer length of his shaggy dog story. Apart from that, it’s a film that rattles along and creates a New York rich in characters. And that makes the ending all the more abrupt and unsatisfactory, as if the brothers Safdie simply ran out of steam.
Pattinson himself it utterly compelling, all twitchiness and eyes constantly looking round for the next opportunity. But hats off to Benny Safdie as Nik, a demanding role that he executes to perfection. Not only does he start the film, but he also ends it. What Connie did was all for him. Or was it?
Good Time is screened at the 61st London Film Festival on October 5th & 8th and released in cinemas on November 17th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★ Movie: ★★★★