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FILM REVIEW: It’s Adrenaline Time With Robert Pattinson’s GOOD TIME

FILM REVIEW: It’s Adrenaline Time With Robert Pattinson’s GOOD TIME

In the new indie thriller Good Time, a hit at the Cannes Film Festival, Robert Pattinson finally breaks out as an actor worth taking seriously after embodying with tenacity a desperate bank robber who would do anything to save his mentally-challenged brother from imprisonment. And while the film itself—at times dangerously exhilarating at others needlessly morose—may not be as grand as its loud sounds or exaggerated close-ups would have you believe, there is no doubt that it will keep you on the edge of your seat through the force of the lead performance.

The film was written and directed by Ben and Josh Safdie, two young brothers from Brooklyn who have made a series of hit smaller movies, but have definitely hit their stride with the heist drama film they’ve put together this time. Pattison stars as Constantine Nikas, a troubled youth from the wrong side of the tracks who engages his brother Nick (played by Ben Safdie) to rob a local bank. Things go predictably but awfully awry and Nick ends up in custody, prompting Constantine to embark on an all-night, deadly caper to bail him out.

Constantine is not a sympathetic character from the outset—he is clearly troubled and prone to violence. Nick is much more welcoming, but is absent for most of the crucial points of the picture. At some point, Constantine is joined by another petty criminal known as Ray, and he encounters a hapless amusement park guard played by the vivacious Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips). He also has brief encounters with an older woman he frequents, played by the talented Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Sympathy is not the point of the drug-abusing, cheating and stealing Constantine. Horrification more likely is, and that the Safdie brothers evoke in droves. Constantine’s initial motivations are difficult to grasp, and the rest of his ordeals seem of his own design. It also is never clear why he engages in some of his most abhorrent behavior even while on his admittedly noble quest to rescue his handicapped brother. The point, of course, is to jar the audience with his behavior and his incessant collapse into antisocial actions. Things get even worse when Ray enters the picture, and you are left feeling as if you’re watching a version of Dog Day Afternoon where you’re not actually rooting for the central figures.

None of this is to say that Good Time won’t keep your eyes peeled, train wreck style at times, throughout Constantine’s entire escapade. The movie stays close to its hyper-realistic tendencies and makes you believe in all of the scenarios, even the more physically extreme ones. The sense that this could be happening right outside your home is one of the film’s greatest achievements.

At the center of it all is Pattinson with his powerful performance. It may not be the most nuanced character, and it may not require a lot of range. But it requires a dash of hysteria and a bit of intense lunacy, not to mention sociopathic determination. Pattinson hits all of those needed tones and thus succeeds in making the character believable (and dangerous) where the script refuses to make him likeable.

One may rightfully complain that Good Time suffers from some of the sins that many indie-directors love to commit, namely to exhibit their love for their own work by showing off needlessly excessive technical craft. The extreme close-ups in the first third of the movie add little, and yield quickly once the action shifts to nighttime. The soundtrack is cool, keeping in line with catchy tunes this summer from Baby Driver to Atomic Blonde, but the excessive noise of it all does not achieve the same immersive purpose as, say, Dunkirk does.

But, to be fair, the entire picture is an exercise in excess—it is not just the camera or the sound that are ramped up to 11, it is the entire arc of the at times stressful, at times electrifying story, the visceral drip of the dialogue, and the nerve-wracking circumstance of the plot. The Safdie Brothers get points for consistency and for overall effectively conveying the sense of urgency they set out to telegraph, all the while working with a story that seems both urgently timely and relevant as well as indistinguishable from genre pop.

Good Time is in Select Cities today.

Grade: B+

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About The Author

J. Don Birnam

J. Don Birnam, a voting member of the New York Film Critics Online, has been a movie lover since he saw the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in theaters at a tender age, and has been a devoted student of American film history every since. His favorite films range from Back to the Future to West Side Story, depending on the time of day, and has a mildly unhealthy obsessions with the Academy Awards. Any similarity with the slightly unstable writer in the seminal 1944 film 'The Lost Weekend' is pure coincidence

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