By Zachary Sheridan
Directed by The Safdie Brothers
Good Time is electric. It’s a pulsating experience that speeds recklessly through the night in an effort to match the pace of its protagonist Connie Nikas (brilliantly played by Robert Pattinson). A film directed by brothers about brothers, it traces the story of Connie and his brother Nick (played by Ben Safdie – one of the co-directing siblings). Nick, a person who is labelled in the film as mentally handicapped, is talking through issues about anger and violence with his doctor (Peter Verby) when Connie bursts in, mistakenly believing he is saving Nick from a man who, as Connie thinks, wants to make his brother cry. They then rob a bank, Nick gets caught, and the rest of the film follows Connie’s efforts to obtain the money necessary to post Nick’s bail.
There’s no time to think in this neon noir rollercoaster which boasts similar vibes to Blade Runner and Scorsese’s early city stuff (who is notable thanked in the credits). Underpinned by the synthy and screaming original soundtrack from Oneohtrix Point Never – which took home an award at Cannes – and wrapped up with close-ups from its opening ‘til its close, Good Time compels. There are seat-sliding instances throughout – these being moments when you duck down violently in an effort to shield your eyes from the screen, distressed at Connie’s actions that lead to catastrophic consequences.
Throughout, there is a sense of something greater embedded in the lives of the film’s characters. That is to say that their dire predicaments potentially speak more of the society that they find themselves within. There is a wretched feeling of failure on the part of the living, breathing city itself and those not present – the ones on the other side of the tracks, with wealth, power, and seemingly a lack of responsibility. Meanwhile, Connie is fuelled with a massive sense of responsibility – an idea perpetually played with. He so deeply wants to take care of Nick, but cannot see his way clear to understanding what is actually best for his brother. His desire for control (epitomised with a ‘POWER’ tattoo imprinted on his back) is rendered useless in a turbulent world.
There is something also to be said of the fact that the brothers disguise themselves as African American for the initial robbery. Later on, Connie then exploits Haitian immigrant Annie (Gladys Mathon) and her granddaughter Crystal (Taliah Lennice Webster), before bashing Somali security guard (Barkhard Abdi) at an amusement park of all places. The latter resulting in the security guard’s arrest in a mix-up of guilt and innocence. This presentation of identity is particularly potent in current-day America.
And is there saving for this world? Will there be a ‘Good Time’? All throughout you’d have to answer an emphatic, ‘No.’ And then, at the end, ‘Perhaps, maybe.’ The film’s final song, a collaboration between Oneohtrix Point Never and Iggy Pop, states that ‘some day, I swear, we’re gonna go to the place where we can do everything we want to / And we can pet the crocodiles.’