GOOD TIME Review: 10 (Crime Thriller of Desperate Dread)
It is also one of the best films of 2017.
With shades of Michael Mann's early work with its neon vibe and night scenes infused with the faulty criminals of Sidney Lumet's work, GOOD TIME takes desperate criminals that are driven by destruction and emotion. Playing out as OF MICE AND MEN in a millennial cityscape, the film opens as Constantine "Connie" Nikas (Robert Pattinson) pulls with his mentally handicapped brother Nick out of mental treatment so he can help him with a bank robbery. When things go sideways, Connie is forced to make some difficult and dangerous choices all in an effort to save his brother. Though Connie isn't necessarily the most clever criminal, he has plenty of street smarts and has enough mental quickness to bob and weave up against all of the bad decisions (some are laughably bad) that he makes as well as the awful circumstances they place him in. Pattinson easily puts out his best work here with a deft physicality and emotional weight to his performance. He is a bumbling idiot at times, but he is also a ruthless and desperate idiot who can talk or fight his way out of a rough patch. Connie isn't an accomplished jewel thief or suave con artist. He is a street thug with enough wits to know when the pressure is on. Pattinson absolutely demands the attention of the audience as he runs headlong into the night--at times not even knowing where or what is next--but all with aggression and fervor. Buddy Duress plays Ray--another reluctant criminal type that Connie crosses paths with. Working as a sort of stand-in for Connie's brother in some ways, this substitution of brothers in arms pushes the plot, and the characters, to a breaking point. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a small but compelling performance here as Connie's sugar mama--just another sucker he can grift that night for what he needs.
GOOD TIME takes place over the course of one night as the film follows Connie and his desperate efforts to save his brother. Fueled by its synth soundtrack that has a Tangerine Dream type vibe, the music adds tension along with a cool sense of dread to the overnight criminal fever dream. Composed by electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never it won the Soundtrack Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The music matches the visuals here, that pulse and vibrate off the screen. The Safdie brothers work in close-ups and midrange with Connie, with occasion only to back away to see how small he is in light of the city around him. It works as a grim reminder that Connie is just one more street tough in a city teeming with crime.
GOOD TIME is gritty with its unflinching view of the underbelly of crime while alternately darkly funny at times, and becoming occasionally grim with how distressed the life is that Connie lives. The criminal exploits of Connie are imperfect and sometimes seemingly random. And it is that part of this film that makes it seem more palpable. It is because Connie is such a screw-up that the believability of a long night of (at times) random crime and tough circumstances to be far more real. In addition, the film is a visual and aural treat, one that film fans and scholars will look back on and herald as one of the best of its genre in its time.