Sept. 8, 2017 at 11:15 p.m.
GOOD TIME (2017)
Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Verby, Barkhad Abdi, Gladys Mathon, Necro.
Directed by Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Benny and Josh Safdie, the filmmaking brothers from Queens, return with a seedy juggernaut that resembles those degenerate New York crime thrillers from the 90s directed by Abel Ferrara. Contemptible characters, a pounding synthesizer score by Daniel Lopatin, and a bang-up performance by Robert Pattinson constitute a surreal journey into the murkiness of one of the most photographed cities in the world.
Co-director Ben Safdie plays Nick, a mentally challenged adult who lives with his aging grandmother in Queens. The film opens in a mental ward as Nick undergoes a psychiatric evaluation by a head shrink (Peter Verby) until his trouble making brother Connie (Robert Pattinson) bursts into the room to snag him from the probing but genuinely concerned psychiatrist. A shouting match ensues as Connie claims to know what’s best for his brother in a scene that defines the close relationship of the two siblings.
It’s obvious that Nick can’t function on his own so Connie sees himself as Nick’s protector. His intentions are well meaning but his misguided actions are only harming Nick. It’s revealed in the next scene that Connie only pulled Nick out of the hospital so the two could rob a bank. The robbery goes awry, Nick gets busted by the cops, and Connie manages to get away.
At this point the film begins a dark descent into the abyss as Connie begins to plot a way to get his brother out of jail. Shady characters are introduced including Connie’s ditsy girlfriend (a nice cameo by Jennifer Jason Leigh), a banged-up parolee named Ray (Buddy Duress), and a 16-year old pot smoking teenager named Crystal (Taliah Webster) who’s looking for a little sex when her drug dealer boyfriend is not around.
The Safdies know how to entertain audiences by crafting gritty dramas filled with lively characters that most of us would never want to encounter. The performances in “Good Time” are first-rate especially Webster, and Duress a real-life convict who picked up acting after starring in the Safdie’s Heaven Knows What. The storyline for “Good Time” was inspired by Duress who spent a fair amount of time in and out of prisons.
There is a raw Walter Hill vibe that permeates throughout “Good Time” with touches of 48 Hours, The Warriors, and the energy of Streets of Fire, unrefined and chaotic versions if you will. Many people will be drawn to the film by Robert Pattinson’s presence and rightfully so. After the “Twilight” films Pattinson discovered his identity by selecting smaller roles that have earned him acclaim in films like Lost City of Z, Water for Elephants, Cosmopolis, and my personal favorite, The Rover. Once again Pattinson delivers a superb performance as the street hustling Connie in “Good Time” and for that reason alone you should step into the Safdie world and discover this film.
(3 ½ stars)
Now playing in Austin at the Regal Arbor 8
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