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‘Good Time’ Is A Riveting, Neon-Lit, Late Night Crime Odyssey (Movie Review)

Plenty of appreciation goes to a film that has me so wrapped up in its urgency that it feels like a jolt when it comes to an end. Good Time presents such an experience. The Palme d’Or nominee presents itself as a modern After Hours, with atmospheric and visceral qualities that call to mind films from around the same time, such as To Live and Die in LA. Rarely halting its journey, Good Time is a movie that manages never to betray its tone, while always feeling like it is improvising new ways to twist its story. It’s a credit to star Robert Pattinson and directors Ben and Josh Safdie that the film can hold together so well, as this crime-thriller has us rooting for certain characters to succeed as well as absorbing us into the alien world that is Queens, New York after midnight.

An opening scene sets us up with the heart of the film, as a mentally disabled young man, Nick (co-director Ben Safdie), is questioned by a therapist, only to be abruptly taken out of the session by his older brother Connie (Pattinson). Little time is spent on establishing either of these two characters, but despite the actions taken by Connie, it is clear that he cares about his brother. Nick is not painted as a saint, but certainly a victim of circumstances who has taken plenty of influence from his hardened older brother. It’s enough to make what follows feel significant.

The majority of the film revolves around the aftermath of a bank robbery. While successful in obtaining the cash, a dye-pack trips the brothers up, resulting in the capture of Nick by the police. A whole night is then committed to following Connie, as he goes through a variety of different experiences in an attempt to get the money needed to bail his brother out of jail. Attempted escapes, chases, mistaken identity and more make up the rest of Connie’s journey.

Connie is short for Constantine, which fittingly has Latin roots that translate the name to constant or steadfast. These traits describe Pattinson is in this role. He transforms himself into this character who does bad things in pursuit of a legitimate goal but is also constantly finding ways to evade capture and successfully think on his feet. The bank robbery may be the only time where he’s in over his head, given the approach taken, but when pushed to save his brother, there’s a level of wit there character has as far as continually finding new ways to work a situation to his advantage.

Armed with an attitude, baggy clothes and eventually dyed hair, Pattinson takes on this challenge with aplomb. It is an intense performance, no doubt, but there is a real quality that has him commanding the screen in his approach. It is quite impressive and further proof that two of the three Twilight leads have certainly more going on in the realm of arthouse and indie films, given the opportunity to explore those roles.

Other performers also leave an impression. Some cameos from Jennifer Jason Leigh (Connie’s adult girlfriend with the maturity of a teenager) and Barkhad Abdi (an unlucky security guard) add layers and escalate the tension. More notable co-stars such as Taliah Webster as a cell phone-obsessed teenager or Buddy Duress as a moto-mouth gangster reject allows the film to approach overwhelming heights, before backing them down to assure the audience just how well these characters factor into the story being told.

The Safdie brothers do plenty on their end to make this film work so effectively as well. Their control over scenes, which relies heavily on tight character focus matched to a combination of 70s-era grit and 80s-era glow, makes for an incredibly vivid ride. There is never a time where the film feels less involved with the characters, but the Safdie’s have still put together a stylish film that does plenty to sell the world Connie is inventively pushing his way through.

A hypnotic electronic score by Oneohtrix Point Never keeps the film feeling like an erratic fever dream that continually knows how to ground itself in the grungy reality of the present. That aspect also emphasizes the sense of unpredictability that helps keep the thrills of this long night coming. While there’s little reliance on actual action scenes, here’s a film that capitalizes on a rhythm that would feel at home in that sort of film. The use of editing, twitchy characters and visceral quality of the movie have Good Time working as effectively as any film featuring multiple shootouts.

All of this in mind and Good Time is still a motion picture revolving around the intense devotion Connie has for his brother. It’s a redeeming aspect of a film that wants us to care for a reckless protagonist. Pattinson has proven to be a solid performer, but his unhinged work here shows just how great it can be to see an actor realize their previously untapped potential. Placing that sort of effort into a film, even an erratic genre thriller such as this, that is so well-constructed means getting an experience that is truly memorable.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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