sat 16/12/2017

Good Time review - heist movie with stand-out performance by Robert Pattinson | reviews, news & interviews

Good Time review - heist movie with stand-out performance by Robert Pattinson

Good Time review - heist movie with stand-out performance by Robert Pattinson

The Safdie brothers pay homage to the mean streets of New York

Blue-collar criminal, Robert Pattinson as desperado Connie Nikes

This is not a movie to see in the front row – intrusive close-ups, hand-held camerawork, colour saturated night shots and a relentless synthesiser score all conspire to make Good Time a wild ride. An unrecognisable Robert Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a nervy con artist who enlists his intellectually disabled brother Nick in a bank robbery. The heist goes horribly wrong and the camera clings to the brothers and their nightmarish fate over the next 24 hours. Directed by real-life brothers Josh and Benny Safdie (the latter also plays Nick), Good Time sometimes plays like an extended homage to the early films of Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann and Abel Ferrara.

There’s a touch too of Dog Day Afternoon, particularly in the role of Nick. I’m always wary when able actors "play crip": it’s tantamount to blackface and shouldn’t be necessary when there are plenty of talented disabled performers. But in this case the amount of violence and degradation inflicted on the character of Nick would make it hard for a director to ask an actor with intellectual disabilities to endure without accusations of exploitation.

Casting major actors like Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Jason Leigh as his train-wreck girlfriend is a significant step up from the Safdies’ previous film. Heaven Knows What (2014) featured unknown non-professionals as actors playing versions of themselves, homeless heroin addicts trying to get their next fix. Buddy Duress (pictured above) was one of the Safdies' street discoveries and he gets a key role in Good Time.

Having done time himself, Duress is wholly convincing as the chaotic Ray, another desperate chancer caught up in Connie’s machinations. Ray has had his face bashed up in a drug deal gone wrong; he looks like a Francis Bacon portrait made flesh. There’s a cameo too from Barkhad Abdi (Oscar-nominated for Captain Phillips) that obliquely highlights the institutional racism of the NYPD.

Good TimeBut it’s getting a big star like Robert Pattinson and giving him a dark, meaty role that has amply paid off here. By this point, he's well and truly escaped from the languid vampire of the Twilight films. Connie is a superbly ambiguous character. Is he just an opportunistic thug duping everyone around him, or is he genuinely protective of his disabled brother? Good Time would make an interesting double bill with Rain Man, another tale of brotherly exploitation with a major star choosing to play against type. But unlike Rain Man, there’s very little moral redemption in the Safdies’ nightmarish vision especially in the third act, which includes the ruthless manipulation of an underage girl (Talia Webster, pictured above with Pattinson). All neon and nastiness, Good Time is both exhausting and exhilarating.

@saskiabaron

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Good Time

Getting big stars on screen and giving them such dark, meaty roles has amply paid off

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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