Imagine a nightmare. What you’re looking for is always out of reach, and everything you’re doing can never be accomplished. Yet even though nothing works, you keep looking, and you keep going. And it it never ends. Worse, you’re not asleep.
The credits for Good Time appear as late as fifteen minutes into the film. By that time, directors Benny and Josh Safdie’s urgent, adrenaline-filled crime-drama has delivered so much conflict that personal stress levels already feel off the charts. Where close-ups fill the widescreen, Sean Price William’s hand-held, always-on-the-move, cinematography keeps everything in your face; it’s a grasp that never quits, and it’s a relief when it’s finally done.
The one experiencing the living nightmare is Constantine ‘Connie’ Nikas (Robert Pattinson), though it’s not Connie who begins the film. Connie’s mentally handicapped brother, Nick (co-director Ben Safdie) is in a therapy session with a psychiatrist (Peter Verby), when, like a destructive hurricane that can’t be stopped, Connie bursts into the room, grabs his brother, and pulls him out.
Once clear of the institution that housed the impaired and inarticulate Nick, brother Connie ropes his younger sibling into helping him rob a bank. Wearing masks that at first glance might look life-like, Connie slides a handwritten note under the glass to a female teller stating that this is a robbery and she needs to put $65,000 in the black bag. The teller empties her till, then writes on the back of Connie’s note: This is all I have. Policy. Connie writes a second note. We are armed. Get the rest of the money. He should have stuck with what was given. Once the teller returns from a secured vault and hands the rest of the demanded amount to Connie in the bag, the brothers walk out, back to the car, thinking mission accomplished. But an exploding dye-pack finishes that thought.
Now, running for their lives, covered in red dust, the police are in pursuit. Nick panics and is captured, while Connie keeps running. And it’s from there where the opening credits roll and the older brother’s problems really begin.
Fueled by the pulsating sounds from experimental musician Oneohtrix Point Never (real name; Daniel Lopatin), the score aids the mounting tension, propelling it ever onward with the feel of a racing, electronic heartbeat that’s about to burst. From the moment Connie busts into that therapy session, it’s as if a rubber band has immediately stretched to capacity, then held there, in constant danger of snapping. Connie’s mounting frustration as he dives headfirst into one disaster after another is our frustration, which makes the ironically titled Good Time a tough watch.
Most mainstream audiences may not take to the film’s overall uncompromising style. It’s neither smooth nor polished, and there’s no one who survives the night in any positive way once meeting Connie, a man who leaves nothing but disaster for everyone in his wake. But those who venture into the arthouse should be impressed, particularly for the following reason.
There’s a constant sense of fascination while watching Pattinson’s character do whatever he can throughout the never ending night to get his brother out of prison. At this point in his career, having shed every last ounce of anything remotely suggesting he was once a teenage heartthrob vampire in the Twilight series, the English actor thoroughly convinces as the New Yorker on the run. He’s not likable, and there’s never a moment when you want him to succeed, yet you can’t look away. Pattinson is totally convincing. It’s quite the revelation.
MPAA rating: R Length: 100 Minutes Overall rating: 8 (out of 10)