Good Time (2017)

Good Time first published by RealCrime Magazine

The title might suggest fun – an idea reinforced by the use of an amusement park as a key location – but Good Time concerns a man’s frantic and increasingly doomed dash through nocturnal New York to prevent a loved one doing a very different kind of time.

After Connie (Robert Pattinson) and his mentally challenged brother Nick (co-director Benny Safdie) carry out a non-violent bank robbery in Flushing but mess up the getaway, Nick is taken into police custody, leaving Connie to pursue one desperate action after another to bail or spring Nick before he ends up in Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

Good Time is not only directed by brothers (Benny and Josh Safdie, whose previous features include Heaven Knows What and Daddy Long Legs), but is also propelled by the fraternal bond. For it follows Connie on his long dark journey into the night, struggling to salvage something good for his brother after their plans for a better life have gone terribly awry. From the opening scene, where a well-meaning psychiatrist (Peter Verby) upsets the confused Nick during a consultation, it becomes clear that even those who want what is best for Nick are not always so effective in serving his interests. Connie, too, wants what is best for his brother, but in pulling Nick from a state-appointed session to a heist, he is acting with extreme irresponsibility, exposing his brother to all manner of danger for which Nick is not mentally equipped. Connie’s journey over the next 24 hours represents an unfolding of the decision that he has made, and its ramifications for Nick and others – including Connie’s girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), paroled loser Ray (Buddy Duress), and up-for-anything teenager Crystal (Taliah Webster). It’s a moral odyssey in which Connie, running on empty and out of choices, is finally seen in haunting close-up as he realises what alone remains that he can do for his brother – something that will reconfigure the meaning of the film’s title.

Cinematographer Sean Price Williams brings a street-level immediacy to Connie’s experience by constantly tracking him close with the camera, all to the Carpenter-esque pulse of Oneohtrix Point Never’s synth-heavy score which drives Connie ever forward on his circular road to nowhere. It is an energetic and intense trip (literally so for some characters, thanks to a bottle of liquid acid) down New York’s side streets and through its demimonde – and also at times very funny. Though misguided from the outset, the sociopathic Connie makes for charming company along the way: readily slipping into different masks and guises, he is a natural improviser and capable of thinking fast on his feet. None of this, though, is enough to stop his spiralling tragedy, as in the end his own marginalisation and failure catch up with him.

© Anton Bitel