by TYLER YORK//Editor-in-Chief
The bond between brothers is one worth fighting for.
But as the Safdie brothers’ “Good Time” illustrates, tirelessly defending familial love can sometimes cause us to destroy ourselves in the process.
“Good Time” follows brothers-in-crime duo Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) and Nicholas Nikas (Ben Safdie) as they prepare for, carry out, and subsequently attempt to outrun the consequences of a nonviolent bank robbery.
Continuing in the tradition of many of A24’s films that preceded it, “Good Time,” bathed in a comforting neon glow and scored with the hums of unsettlingly cheerful synths, manages to walk a confident line between playful mischief and mortal terror, sometimes within a single blink of a dilated eye.
Even with the quality of the music and the wonderfully stylistic visuals, the obvious standout in this movie is the incredibly nuanced acting.
First and foremost, Pattinson’s portrayal of Connie is transformative to the point of almost being unrecognizably Pattinson. To think that this is the same actor who once brooded, pale and sparkling, in the “Twilight” series is beyond comprehension.
It’s clear from the first moments we see Connie on screen that Pattinson can put everything he has into a role, and, in doing so, raise a story to transcendent heights. Pattinson conveys Connie’s love for his mentally challenged brother Nicholas—played with incredible care and truth by Ben Safdie—with a subtlety that is as foundational and indestructible as the bond between the brothers themselves.
Connie is obviously a criminal, but he has an uncharacteristic compassion that helps him keep sight of what’s important. Nobody can get hurt if they rob a bank without using a gun, but can the same be said for going up face-to-face against actual drug dealers in broad daylight?
All the main cast is just as believable and raw, with other prominent—if brief—performances by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Connie’s travel-obsessed girlfriend, and Taliah Webster as an unwitting teenage accomplice. Even Academy Award nominee Barkhad Abdi, best known for portraying the Somali pirate ringleader in “Captain Phillips,” makes a far-too-brief, almost unintentionally comical, appearance as an amusement park security guard.
Likely the biggest fault this movie could be branded with is the short appearances of some of its bigger name actors. But the intensity of the rest of the film makes it, pardon the pun, a lesser crime.
The Safdie brothers seem to have a definite love for a specific time and place in young adulthood. It’s a time when walking around the city with a tough crowd doing things of questionable legality was just a way to pass the weeknights, along with a place where being showered in the aura of bright, warm neon lights is a regular occurrence.
The Safdies’ New York isn’t reflective of grandeur or big-city dreams. It’s dark, it’s backlit, and it thrives on its own seediness. But it’s home to these characters, and they fit right in.
The beginning of the movie especially paints a very different picture of a crime action setting, with many of its shots taking place in claustrophobic, stabilized close-ups. The same unnatural stabilizations occur anytime a character gets in a car—they’re followed from above, as in an aerial news chase shot, and the footage is sped up almost imperceptibly, giving the sequences a hyper-real feeling of suspense and anticipation of something about to happen.
The film wouldn’t be complete without the score. To simply say “it works well with the movie” would be an injustice.
The vibrancy and almost ’80s-callback quality of the music perfectly acts as the electric glue tying the film together, teeming with nervous energy while almost always managing to sound unnervingly happy and upbeat. In many moments, the score will be gently pulsing underneath, then suddenly unleash an onslaught of jarring sound, which matches the utter confusion and panic that permeates many of Connie’s decisions he is forced to confront.
The score was written by Oneohtrix Point Never—also known as Daniel Lopatin—and from top to bottom, it feels just as purposeful and dripping with atmosphere as other big-name composers’ works in similar movies such as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “Gone Girl.”
There are drugs. There is crime after crime. But there is also a brother who cares so deeply he’s willing to throw caution to the wind in order to rescue the ones he cares about. It’s a disquieting film with incredible chameleon-like acting and dreamy visuals. Anyone watching would almost be guaranteed to have a good time.
I give “Good Time” an 8.5 out of 10.
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