DIR: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie • WRI: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie • PRO: Sebastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas • DOP: Sean Price Williams • DES: Sam Lisenco. Ed: Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie • MUS: Oneothrix Point Never • CAST: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress, Erik Paykert
Connie (Pattinson) coaxes his intellectually disabled brother Nick (Safdie- also the film’s co-director) into helping him rob a bank. Things don’t go to plan during the getaway when the innocent and manipulated Nick gets arrested, while Connie gets away. With the money from the robbery marked and unusable, the film follows Connie over the course of one night, as he wanders around New York trying to raise enough money to get Nick out on bail, without himself getting caught in the process.
While this pulsating film may not seem to offer much originality in terms of its basic outline, it is rich in raw characterization and dynamic style. The reliably excellent Pattinson essays the conniving, manipulative, complex Connie, who’s loyalty to his brother Nick is unquestionable, even if his ideas are often ill-advised. Connie views his own expedience and the way in which he uses those around him as street-smart wiliness, necessary for survival in a cruel world.
As the film opens up we see Connie interrupting Nick’s therapy session. He pulls Nick out of it and convinces him of his plan for them to rob a bank and flee to Virginia. What we see of the preceding therapy session itself gives tantalising hints as to the upbringing of the two brothers. Nick obliquely refers to abuse at the hands of his grandmother, who we only ever see in a later TV news interview where she denounces both Nick and Connie. Equally interesting is Connie’s illogical and ignorant disgust at the idea of his brother undergoing therapy. ‘Is that who you think you are?’ he asks him, dismayed at the idea of his loved one needing to turn to anyone else but him for help.
Beyond that, Connie crosses paths with an array of other fully-formed and utterly believable characters, all in varying degrees of desperation- Jennifer Jason Leigh’s hopelessly naïve Corey who will seemingly do anything to try and please Connie, Barkhad Abdi’s deeply unfortunate security guard and Duress’ rough, ragged, tortured Ray, who ends up playing a big role in Connie’s attempts to free his brother.
Stylistically the film adds freshness and vitality to what could have been a more traditionally realist piece. Sean Price Williams’ constantly roving camera finds the perfect balance between gritty vérité and trippy absurdity. The truly transformative aspect of the film formally, however, is Oneothrix Point Never’s supreme, pounding score.
As well as being utterly gripping and extremely well drawn, the film also manages to find a lot of humour in Connie’s plight. The manner in which Connie knocks across Ray is genuinely hilarious and the increasing absurdity and surrealism of the night’s events sometimes call to mind Scorsese’s After Hours. Amidst the dark humour, however, the tragic reality of these characters’ circumstances and choices and the consequences of these, remain constantly palatable.
The film’s assuredness of tone, pace and form illustrate clearly the deftness of the direction from Benny and Josh Safdie and mark them out as singular talents. The richness of the characters and their situations is testament to Josh Safdie and Roland Bronstein’s lean, intelligent script. Pattinson anchors everything with a remarkably charismatic and nuanced turn in an excellent ensemble. Hearing the score on cinema-speakers is probably worth the price of admission alone. This is a thrillingly cinematic and powerfully compassionate piece of work.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Good Time is released 17th November 2017