It’s almost impossible not to compare Robert Pattinson’s career arc with that of Leonardo DiCaprio. Both were teenage heart-throbs in iconic roles. Both took time off after said roles, then began taking on smaller projects to re-invigorate their careers as adults. Good Time, a frenetic and grimy crime thriller, is a fantastic vehicle for the next stage of Pattinson’s career. It’s a spare piece of work thematically, but the savvy, energetic direction of the Safdie brothers and Pattinson’s wide-eyed, intense performance keep it afloat.
As the film opens, Constantine (Pattinson) and his mentally-challenged brother, Nick (Safdie), are quietly robbing a bank in New York City. After initially escaping clean, the two are tracked on foot by police and Nick is arrested after crashing through a plate-glass window. Desperate to free his brother from jail, Constantine finds himself – in one night – criss-crossing the underbelly of New York City in search of bail money as well as a way out for himself.
Shot in mostly extreme close-ups with a wide 2.35:1 frame, the Safdie brothers immediately establish a claustrophobic, crazed visual style for Good Time. It serves the film well as Constantine comes in contact with people of varying levels of trustworthiness and accentuates the neon-soaked dinginess of all the locations. The screenplay, by Ronald Bronstein and Josh Safdie, nicely works in some very dark humor to an otherwise slim narrative. The story loses significant steam in its third act as Constantine and an accomplice endlessly navigate a closed adventure park, but a decent pay-off awaits.
Films whose main characters have no redeeming qualities – just about everyone in Good Time is some degree of terrible – are always a risky proposition. Benny and Josh Safdie somehow make it work by keeping the story relatively unpredictable and homaging the gritty crime sagas of the late 70s/early 80s. Robert Pattinson continues to evolve his craft and should be around for the long haul, even if it’s only in adventuresome independent projects. Here he turns in his best work to date. Good Time isn’t can’t-miss cinema by any means, but it’s a fine entry to an out-of-style genre and another winner for A24 Films.
Studio: A24 Films
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: R for language throughout, violence, drug use and sexual content.
Theatrical Release: August 11, 2017 (Limited) / August 25, 2017 (Wide)
Directed by: Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie
Written by: Ronald Bronstein & Josh Safdie
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi