Good Time

 

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Criminals in New York City but not as we have seen them before.

    
Good Time

 

This is a film with a distinctive flavour that makes it unlike anything else that I have seen. It is in fact the fifth feature of the Safdie brothers - that is too say that Benny Safdie is credited as a director, as a co-editor and as a leading actor while Josh Safdie shares the directing credit and is also co-writer with Ronald Bronstein. This is the same team that gave us Heaven Knows What made in 2014 yet only released here in 2016, but in telling a true story that film dealt in a gritty realism that gave it a very different character to this one. Personally I found myself more in tune with that film than with this new one, but Good Time has aroused substantial interest and, indeed, enthusiasm. To describe it as a Marmite film may be too extreme, but its blend of drama and humour could well divide opinion.

 

Set in New York, Good Time is the story of Constantine ‘Connie’ Nikas (Robert Pattinson) and his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) who is less bright mentally. But, if Connie is the planner, his schemes never work out and in this instance he carries out a bank robbery with his sibling, one that goes disastrously wrong leading to Nick being arrested and injured. The consequence is that Connie then seeks to release his brother from the hospital room where he is being detained with results equally inept. This might suggest that calling the film Good Time is ironic, but in fact there is a sense throughout of the Safdie brothers relishing the material and for most of the time inviting the audience to enjoy themselves: the movie seems to relish the absurdities that come crowding in and even placing the credits over scenes of tension and menace takes on a knowing air.

 

A pre-credit sequence in which Nick is questioned by a psychiatrist (Peter Verdy) is splendidly humorous, but there’s just a hint of something else too by way of a tear. Nevertheless, what might have been a straightforwardly dark story plays out in such a way that moments of stylisation add to the feeling that we should not be taking it too seriously. Only at the very end with the psychiatrist featured once again does the satirical tone carry a definite hint of underlying tragedy (the film plays out to a song by Iggy Pop entitled 'The Pure and the Damned').

 

The film’s second half introduces another criminal played by Buddy Duress as a major character but the movie is largely carried by Robert Pattinson who finds the apt tone for portraying Connie (there is also an able supporting turn as a security guard by Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips). It would be impossible not to recognise the individuality of Good Time (it is so strongly felt that comparisons made by some with the work of Martin Scorsese seem wide of the mark). However, you either embrace its unique world and feel that it all holds up or else, after an engaging start, you ultimately fail to find a real foothold in it - not quite Marmite, but nearly.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Benny Safdie, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Durerss, Taliah Lennice Webster, Peter Verdy, Necro.

 

Dir Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, Pro Paris Kasidokostas Latsis, Terry Douglas, Sebastian Bear-McClard and Oscar Boyson, Screenplay Ronald Bronstein and Josh Safdie, Ph Sean Price Williams, Pro Des Sam Lisenco, Ed Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, Music Oneohtrix Point Never, Costumes Miyako Bellizzi and Mordechai Rubinstein.

 

Rhea Films/Elara Pictures-Curzon Film World.
102 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 17 November 2017. Cert. 15.