August 25, 2017

R: August 25th, 2017 | R: 101 minutes | R: R

When Robert Pattinson approached Josh and Benny Safdie to express his intention of working with them, no one would have imagined the result of that collaboration to be a love letter to the social realism of crime thrillers. It's more than enough to take just one long look at GOOD TIME's pulpy and exhilarating vision of the sociology of American criminality to truly understand the grand confluence of independent cinema and pop poetry. GOOD TIME, and more specifically the Safdie Brothers, is where those two meet.

In the film, an unrecognizable Pattinson plays Connie, who lives a life of crime in New York City with his mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie). Nick attends psychiatric sessions to help with his traumas, but Connie just wants Nick to help him rob a bank. So they go off on a heist that initially seems to go over well, but soon things take a bad turn in a way that leaves Nick arrested and Connie on a journey to bail him out of Riker's Island. During just one extensive, discombobulating night, Connie desperately and cleverly looks to avoid every trap and overcome all obstacles thrown his way in this endless spiral of misfortunes. GOOD TIME's most effective moments are when its entertainment value depends on its grimy protagonist's unpredictability.

Robert Pattinson gives a career-defining performance and cuts no corners playing an egocentric sociopath whose relentlessness and impulsive habits lead to some of the most frustrating, adrenaline-filled scenes in film this year. An absolutely terrific rendition of the NYC felonious underclass with spontaneous decisions making for regretful consequences. It's also worth mentioning lead actor/co-director Benny Safdie's performance, with a compelling yet tactful portrayal of mental illness. Other familiar faces include Crystal (Taliah Webster), Ray (Buddy Duress), and cameos from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi. These background characters indirectly but aptly shed light to the social, racial, and xenophobic discrimination that pollute Connie's nihilistic, multicultural New York and Trump's America.

GOOD TIME begins and ends with Oneothrix Point Never's visceral synth score, with continual ecstatic noise that sets a mood of desperation and longs for a promised break that never comes. Even as the film comes to a close, the appropriately titled "The Pure and the Damned" soft ballad by Iggy Pop invades the film's credits to propose a truce between strain and release. If anything, the improvised vibes of the brilliant score add yet another layer to the Safdie's cinematic antipathy that's rich in depravity and cynicism.

The ending is a soul-crushing gut punch when Nick is interpolated into a familiarity he wasn't previously allowed to enjoy, then the credits start to roll. Masked by the seemingly simple game of "cross the room," it's an unnerving statement on the dire repercussions that this single, unhinged night had. Josh and Benny Safdie's self-critical, magical realism accomplished to go unnoticed in Hollywood for years, but GOOD TIME, both as misanthropic observation of cultural decay and unbelievably raw storytelling, will surely catapult them into bigger and more expensive projects.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Gerardo Gerardo (Contributor) is a film student living in Philadelphia. He usually prefers independent and classic films, but he will watch anything in theaters.
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