Wednesday 11 November 2020

Movie Review: Good Time (2017)

A crime drama with a mean streak of humourous nihilism, Good Time is wild ride through capricious terrain.

Constantine "Connie" Nikas (Robert Pattinson) yanks his developmentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of a therapy session, and the two proceed to commit a bank robbery. After an attempted escape Nick is quickly arrested, but Connie remains on the loose and turns to ex-girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to try and raise the bail bond money to free Nick.

While that plan does not quite work, Connie learns Nick has been transferred to hospital and hatches an audacious breakout. But the night is young, and Connie will soon be involved with 16 year old Crystal, her caustic grandma, hyper parolee Ray, and amusement park nightguard Dash (Barkhad Abdi).

Adopting the principle that every apparent plot direction is worth shattering, Good Time plays by its own rules, and plays well. Co-directors and brothers Josh and Benny Safdie conjure up an adventure through the convoluted mess of a criminal's world, where every action has an unintended outcome, a maze where the walls shift without warning to impose refreshingly disorienting new realities.

With a sleek aesthetic, stylish colours, agile cinematography and brisk pacing, Good Time celebrates improvisation. Connie's tragedy is that he is really smart: faced with every new obstacle he is never short of an idea to try and turn circumstances in his favour, until the next banana peel sends him hurtling into a new predicament.

The film's tone is grim and straight, and blood splatters from bursts of violence, but the dark humour crackles just beneath the surface. The bank robbery turns into a negotiation by handwritten notes. At the office of the bail bondsman, a straightforward transaction disintegrates into multiple overlapping conversations on at least four different phones. Later at Crystal's house a revelation underlines to Connie just what kind of a night he is having, until a buzzed Ray describes his most recent few hours and Connie understands how much worse things are about to become - and the opportunities hidden in the mayhem.

Intense, grimy and nothing if not purposeful, Robert Pattinson excels as Connie, transforming a low-life criminal into a sympathetic character through clever persistence. Good Time is a bad night spiked by an exhilarating determination to do good, at least by one man's definition.

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