Good Time: NZIFF Review
Wearing its Euro-scuzziness like a badge of honour, Josh and Benny Safdie's Good Time is a nervy thriller that has a pounding first half, before slightly going off the boil.
In many ways, its ethos is the Dardenne Brothers via Luc Besson.
Robert Pattinson stars as Connie, who, at the start of the film, breaks his mentally handicapped brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of facility to help him rob a bank. However, unsurprisingly, this goes south, and Nick ends up being arrested.
With Connie on the run and desperate to assuage some guilt over the incarceration, the clock ticks as he tries to do what he can to restore his brother's freedom.
There's absolutely no doubt the first half of this film, complete with its scummy outlook and its pounding Euro techno beat OST from Oneohtrix Point Never, is utterly thrilling, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Dragging out the pre-titles over a 20 minute period works well for the guerilla film-making ethos of the Safdie brothers, and it gives a pace to the film that's compulsive and nerve-shredding.
Setting on the streets gives it a vibe of the grubby and guarantees that those watching will be hooked, but the film comes slightly unstuck in its second half when Connie's forced into partnership with someone else, due to narrative constraints. It ultimately leads to a series of escapades, and despite the great settings (the streets at night, a fairground complete with Barkhad Abdi as a security guard), the frenetic pace disappointingly slows as it becomes a little more of a psychological insight into Connie and his family.
Pattinson is watchable throughout, imbuing his Connie with a sense of the desperate, yet a sense of being in control. With continual close ups, the Safdies bring a sense of the claustrophobic and the tense, draping everything in Euro neons and reds helps matters a lot too, and helps build atmosphere.
There are moments when the visceral edges help to really reach its potential as this gutter thriller plays out, but the film's desire to build up characters then dispose of them for narrative reasons make it hard to latch on to anything. And while Connie's still the centre of it all, and it's his odyssey, the time spent with others feels wasted.
All in all, Good Time is simply that. Nothing more, nothing less - it's a solid experience which feels like two films stylistically meshed into one pulsing lump that, like any sugar rush, lasts while you're in it, but feels like a comedown at the end.