“Good Time” is the new — and misnamed — movie from Josh and Benny Safdie, the talented New York brothers who have spent the last 10 years turning out stories with gritty urban themes.
Its star, Robert Pattinson, plays Connie Nikas, a resourceful but ultimately ineffective hood from Queens; his single admirable quality is his absolute loyalty to his mildly retarded brother, Nick.
As the film opens, Connie drags Nick out of a psychiatric session that is making him uncomfortable and angry. Then Connie and Nick pull off a seemingly well-plotted bank heist that ends quickly with Nick’s arrest and transfer to a Rikers Island holding pen.
Things go downhill from there. Connie tries to find money to bail out his brother and then learns that Nick has been hospitalized after a beating by other inmates. He perseveres through plan after failed plan, using cunning and charm to draw in his sometime girlfriend and then several generous African American people. There are many tension-inducing plot elements, including a colossal case of mistaken identity, a midnight encounter with a security guard at a faded amusement park and a large bottle of LSD that is seen for a time as the solution to Connie’s money problems. The movie covers a lot of ground in its always-urgent 100 minutes.
Cinematographer Sean Price Williams has shot the film almost entirely with handheld cameras that focus mostly on very tight facial studies of anguish and desperation. The action is punctuated with electronic music (by Brooklyn’s Oneohtrix Point Never) that maintains the atmospheric themes of anxiety and dread.
“Good Time” is exactly the movie its creators set out to deliver, and it is very well done.
That said, it is unsettling to watch. If you’re a student of film, you should see it. If you are not, you should think twice.