Safdie brothers’ ‘Good Time’ is frenzied cinematic trip

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Grade: 4.0 / 5.0

“Good Time” seems, at first, like the story of a robbery gone bad. What it’s really after is seeing how many puzzles, traps and sticky situations Robert Pattinson’s character Connie Nikas can get himself out of. Connie is a young career criminal with a superiority complex and a deep love for his brother, Nick.

Played by co-director Ben Safdie, Nick was only along for the ride of the robbery his brother planned when he trips through and shatters a glass window, alerting the cops who were already on the Nikas brothers’ heels.

When Nick is arrested for the crime they committed together, Connie is thrown into a race against time to get his brother out of jail without getting caught.

The brothers’ bond is central to the film. Despite the fact that we only really see them together during the first act, Connie’s actions for the remainder of the film are largely driven by his love for his brother. In the moments the pair share on screen, Connie provides validation for Nick, who has a developmental disability. During a Q&A session, the Safdie brothers stated that they chose to cast Ben Safdie, despite his not having a disability, as Nick because of the long and demanding days on set.

Connie instructs Nick throughout the robbery, and afterward reminds him that he was integral to their emergence with a bag full of cash. Nick’s presence alone was threatening enough, sheerly because of his stature, to convince the bank teller to hand over the dough they sought.

But on their walk home, the brothers get stopped by the cops, prompting a chase that shifts Connie’s demeanor from one of support to one of desperation — and Nick just can’t keep up.

As the film pushes on after Nick’s arrest, it seems that Connie’s demeanor undergoes a more overarching shift as well. Although his love for his brother is never in doubt, his motives seem to change from the singular desire to get his brother out of jail to survival and then to proving his intellectual superiority over all the individuals he encounters while evading arrest.

Thus, the true conflict of the film is revealed: Connie’s belief that he is smarter, faster and better than those around him was once subdued because he had control of his brother. When all that he has is himself, his condescension and selfishness are unambiguously revealed. For this reason, it’s equally as stimulating intellectually as it is visually.

“Good Time” is both visually and sonically electrifying — pulsing with tension and panic, painted in brilliant hues of blues, reds, greens and purples.

The best shot of the film comes at the end: an extended beat of ecstasy and reflection we share with Connie in the back of a cop car. The image and color of the scene are meditative — perhaps the only calm moment of the film — despite the fact that Connie is having several critical realizations at once.

We see his ego collapse, his panic peak and then die down; he realizes what he has to do, and we see that thought process across his face. It’s superb acting on Pattinson’s part and likely the result of excellent direction from the Safdie brothers.

Though the film is a wild ride, and despite Pattinson’s captivating performance, “Good Time” left much to be desired in the way of character background and complexity. The Safdie brothers worked with Pattison at length to develop Connie and Nick’s backgrounds, but we hardly see any of that in the film. As a result, we’re left feeling that Connie is just an overly simplistic character with an overinflated ego and a hero complex.

But perhaps not much more than this — in addition his apparent pathological lies — is needed from Connie’s character narratively. Pattinson’s nuanced performance may compensate for the background his character lacks in the film. Connie spirals out, leaving human collateral damage in his wake.

The film seems intent on disorienting its audience — throwing us off course into a frenzy that parallels Connie’s — and Oneohtrix Point Never’s score is central to that tension, keeping us constantly on edge. In short, “Good Time” has the futuristic imagery of sci-fi classic “Blade Runner,” and combines it with a simple action-crime conflict for an eclectic film that delivers exactly what its title promises.

Contact Sophie-Marie Prime at [email protected].