Good Time (2017)

Directed by Benny & Joshua Safdie
Written by Ronald Bronstein & Joshua Safdie

There is no substitute for a good heist movie. A good heist movie gets the blood flowing and adrenaline pumping. It’s an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that never lets up, and when it does it’s just as engaging because the screenplay is so well written that you can’t help but be fully invested in the outcome. Good guys, bad guys, no matter the guys you either want to see them succeed and get away with the money or fail miserably and get the justice that’s coming your way. Some standard things that always seem to accompany a good heist movie are great chase scenes and killer soundtracks. With their latest, Benny and Joshua Safdie craft a heist movie starring Robert Pattinson which doesn’t quite follow the same guidelines I just laid out. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’ll let you be the judge.

We’re introduced to Connie Nikas (Pattinson) with a rude awakening, as he barges into a therapy session between a counselor and his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie). We’re not sure quite what their relationship is, or how Connie views their grandmother who raised them, but the two are quickly whisking away with a bag full of cash after Connie decides to knock over a local bank. On the lam, Connie and Nick race away from the cops, but Nick eventually gets left behind. Connie, desperate to save his brother from everybody except himself turns to Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to help bail him out of jail. But when that route fails, Connie takes desperate measures, breaking his brother out of the hospital after he was injured in prison.

Connie is clearly a desperate character, trying everything he can to save his brother. He saves him from the therapist, he tries to save him from prison. This is a heist movie that is much more about the aftermath than it is the heist, which is an interesting setting for a movie. It has a prime opportunity to explore the motives and deep seated feelings and emotions of Connie, Nick, and their relationships with those around them, and each other. However, directors Benny and Josh Safdie fail to explore the characters at enough depth to keep the viewer invested in the outcome of Connie’s joyride/escapade.

Pattinson plays Connie with the right amount of vigor, failure, ambition and desperation. His performance is perhaps the best thing about the film. However, I was constantly questioning his motives. Not that the motives provided were not convincing, but rather that I found none, at least not as shown in the film. There is something between him and his brother, him and his grandmother, him and himself. But it is never explored, which becomes increasingly frustrating as the film progresses and Connie continues to get himself into more and more trouble for reasons unexplained. Mystery can be a strong element to any film, especially one such as this, but when the mystery never resolves itself, all that is left is nothing to care about.

The Safdie brothers insert enough energy, flourish and thrills to make Good Time bearable, but I do mean bearable. Their filmmaking flourish out rivals their screenplay writing, which leaves much to be desired. Too often I found myself befuddled by the decisions of the characters throughout the film. These don’t seem to be real people, or if they are they are either too dumb, naive, or misguided for me to pull for them in any way. Nick is the only character worth caring about, but the film spends the whole time away from him, fixated on Connie until the final, touching, and heartwarming scene in the film, which by that time is completely unearned. If the rest of the film was as observational and poignant as that scene, we would have a film worth talking about. Not every movie is for everybody. Good Time certainly wasn’t for me.

** – Poor

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