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The Safdie Brothers (Josh and Bennie) have been making quite a reputable name for themselves in American indie circles, thanks to their unrelentingly raw and honest portrayals of the downtrodden. They shoot on the fly and use an unfiltered docudrama approach, the realism of which is particularly helped by their choice to cast non-professionals who frequently just happen to be the actual type of person they're trying to portray, blurring the lines between fiction and non-fiction.
They've been pumping out movies for almost ten years now, but they've mostly been under the radar until the release of their terrific drama Heaven Knows What in 2014, which was a brutally frank depiction of a toxic "romance" between two junkies. For their follow-up, the brothers decide to take their grim and unfiltered approach to drama and inject a manic and pulse-pounding crime thriller directly into its bloodstream.
Good Time is a veritable "race against the clock" thriller with a strikingly impressive indie edge. While not only conforming to but exceeding the expectations of genre filmmaking, the brothers never compromise on their delicate attention to character detail, as well as cultural and locational accuracy. The premise is fairly simple, and that's where its hypnotic power derives from: Connie (Robert Pattinson) is a small-time crook who robs a bank with his mentally disabled brother Nick (Co-director and co-editor Benny Safdie) so he can take care of Nick the way he thinks would be best for him.
The aftermath of the admittedly effective initial robbery hits a series of disastrous snags, and Nick is caught by the authorities. Understandably terrified that Nick will be hurt if left alone to his own devices inside a world he doesn't understand, Connie becomes hell-bent on bailing him out. His worst fears come to fruition when Nick ends up in a hospital after being brutally beaten by other convicts. In order to save him from further harm, Connie has to somehow come up with an extra ten thousand dollars of bail money. His laser-focused goal sends him on an insane trek across Long Island where he, among other disasters, kidnaps the wrong target, beats up a security guard, hits on a highly impressionable young girl, and straight up becomes the antagonist in a mini-home invasion horror film, putting the life of a well-meaning grandma in jeopardy.
Connie is a fairly despicable character on paper, but Pattinson manages to give depth to the character, in a way that helps us empathize with his motivations and life philosophy, even at points when it becomes all too easy to mock the many staggeringly stupid decisions he makes along the way. Ever since the Twilight Saga ended, Pattinson has been going out of his way to demolish his pretty boy sparkling emo vampire image. He's appeared in many edgy indie projects, including a strong supporting turn in the unique post-apocalyptic drama The Rover. Yet I can unequivocally state that this is my first impression of him where the vampire past has complete disappeared. I know it's a critic cliché to write that "so-and-so disappears in the role", but some clichés exist for a reason.
Good Time's 1080p transfer stays loyal to the film's surprisingly colorful and exuberant visual scheme, considering its grimy subject matter and locations. There aren't any obvious video noise issues and the video presentation manages to keep up with the brothers' manic camera moves, avoiding aliasing, color bleeding, chroma noise, etc…
The DTS-HD 5.1 track needs to be experienced through a decent surround system, basically because of one important reason: Oneothrix Point Never's relentless yet hypnotic score that harkens back to a 70s exploitation feel. The heavy percussions of the music perfectly communicates Connie's perpetually freaked out mind.
Commentary: The Safdie Brothers and a chunk of the cast and crew tell intimately detailed stories about the production during the lively commentary.
The Pure and The Damned: A fairly comprehensive 20-minute making of documentary.
"The Pure and The Damned" Music Video: Anyone into checking out a creepy CGI representation of Iggy Pop should certainly watch it.
Good Time is a grimy, unrelentingly harsh experience that's never afraid to go to some uncomfortable places. This is the kind of sleaze-filled crime thriller that makes me glad that the film doesn't come with Smell-o-rama. Yet none of that should be a deterrent to give it a shot, especially if you're looking for a refreshingly fresh and blunt approach to the genre.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com