Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Written by: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 7/13/17
Opens: August 11, 2017
There are moments that Robert Pattinson, even with a Trump-like blond dye-job on his voluminous hair, resembles Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon.” And wouldn’t you know that in this performance he may become a heartthrob not so much to teen girls who eat up his full-bloodied role in the “Twilight” saga but to millennial women and more, because in “Good Time,” he has emerges as a genuine actor who could probably do anything. It helps that he is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, the latter taking a major role in the Safdies’ latest, because the Safdies, who in “Heaven Knows What” are tuned into the street-wise and the drug culture. “Good Time” might give the theater audiences the view that dealing liquid LSD would benefit not some 1960’s style hippies but rather the low life elements in New York’s outer borough of Queens.
“Good Time” is not simply a movie about a bank robbery gone amiss and subsequent attempts to get away from the law, but treats the sensitive role played by Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) as mentor and protector to his intellectually disabled brother Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie). If you’ve read John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men” which is frequently required high-school reading, you’ll immediately recognize the fraternal bonds of Connie and Nick as reflecting the tender relationship of George Milton and Lenny Small. The former is the more rational guy, the latter the hulking, yet vulnerable brother. Just when you think that the movie will deal exclusively with Connie and Nick, a clever twist occurs setting Connie up a barely tolerant liaison with motor-mouth parolee Ray (Buddy Duress.)
The Safdies waste no time setting up the bank robbery complete with a Daniel Lopatin’s pulsating soundtrack. The brothers Nikas, wearing masks of African-Americans with sunglasses, pass a handwritten scrawl to the teller asking for a specific sum of money, and when the teller assures them that her drawer cannot meet that sum, she is directed to find the rest. (Though the teller takes her time in the adjacent room, she does not pull the silent alarm, but does something else that will surprise the robbers.) On the run with the money, the brothers continue with George-and-Lenny syndrome, Connie repeatedly assuring his disabled brother.
In a botched getaway Connie, who eludes the police, has his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh in her usual high-pitched flaky role) get up the bail to get Nick out of jail, but when Nick, after a brutal fight with another inmate, winds up at Elmhurst Hospital, Nick has no problem the fellow’s right under the nose of the cop at the door. When the scene switches through another twist, Connie, and now Ray, become temporarily bonded, and while continuing his escape, Connie winds up in the Queens apartment of a Haitian woman (Gladys Mathon) and her sixteen-year-old granddaughter (Taliah Webster).
There you have it; a movie with a major interest in an atmosphere of high tension coupled with the ways that Connie, who is street-wise enough to know how to manipulate Dash (Barkhad Abdi), a security guard at an amusement park that has seen better days; an elderly woman; a teen granddaughter who has no problem handing him car keys to continue the getaway, and most of all his hulking brother who is not only intellectually disabled but wears a hearing aid. There are sensitive scenes between Nick and a psychologist, who can barely evoke sensible answers to a verbal test.
“Good Time,” then, juxtaposes Connie’s treatment of his brother and of a stranger, but most of all is a high-tension picture with bold use of music and songs, including Iggy Pop’s “The Pure and the Damned,” and assorted electronica—which could make the picture a Best Music nominee at awards time. You won’t have time to look at your watch: blink, and you’ve missed a key point.
Unrated. 100 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – B+