After a bank heist that manages to go wrong in all the worst ways, Constantine “Connie” Nikas (Robert Pattinson) must try to get his vulnerable brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of prison. In a vibrant and kinetic blur of a film taking place over the span of a day, Connie weaves his way through the underground of New York, trying everything he can to help his brother.
At it’s heart Good Time is not a heist film, or a crime thriller. It’s the story of one desperate man’s manipulation of the people around him to get exact what he feels he deserves. Connie is violent and unpredictable – and these moments of violence are captured in uncomfortable close ups – an unassuming security guard getting beaten within an inch of his life, Nick in prison on the wrong end of a fight – in which you can all but taste the blood pooling in their mouths.
Robert Pattinson as Connie captures the unnerving charm of a man willing to do anything he wants to get his brother out of prison – attempting to get bail money from his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Lee) – a woman who is not entirely mentally stable herself – to seducing sixteen year old Crystal (Taliah Webster) after manipulating his way into her grandmother’s house. There is something wonderfully unhinged about Pattinson’s performance as he darts through the city with eyes that are too wide and the ragged hair of a man that has not been home for several days.
The Safdie brothers drench the film in colour. From the explosion of bright pink dye in the back of the getaway car, to the nightmare-ish day-glo of the theme park that Connie and an another criminal Ray (Buddy Duress) break into to find a stash of LSD that will get Connie the money he needs. It makes the film feel like a extended hallucination – the bedraggled ends of a party that should have been left hours ago.
The supporting cast, from Jason Lee, to Barkhad Abdi as the unlucky security guard, and the debut performance of Taliah Webster, who is surely a forced to be reckoned with in her future roles, are able to blend a sense of vulnerability and a steel core in this strange and hard world they find themselves living in. Webster’s role as a sixteen-year old intrigued by the strange man that is suddenly in her house, manages to add a real sense of unease to film without ever feeling exploitative – which is a welcome relief, quite frankly. Benny Safdie as Nick, is brilliant too, managing to bring a remorse and sadness to the violence that landed him in a therapy session. He is the first and last shot of the film – despite Connie as the main character – this story is about Nick, about a life that he is not wholly in charge of.
It’s unlike any other heist film you’ve probably seen, where the heist takes second place in the narrative, but Good Time is as much about manipulation and control as the thrill of the chase.