Good Time, as ironic a title as the Safdie Brothers intended it to be, is a film with no reprieve. Centered around the crime-hustling Connie (Robert Pattinson) who tries to re-connect with his autistic brother after a robbery gone wrong, this non-stop thrill ride is an assault on the senses from start to finish. Films about New York City’s otherside are hard to come by. Following up on their previous film, Heaven Knows What, the Safdie Brothers have a searing acuity for depicting the ones who live on the street. Without the lavish noir of Drive and the melodramatic moodiness of Taxi Driver (both of which are films I greatly admire), Good Time is unapologetic in its depiction of how difficult it is for hustlers to find reprieve in this unforgiving world. As crazy and incredulous as some scenes may be, Good Time’s shortcomings do not detract from the film’s tragic misery; The ones who live by crime die by crime.
Like a non-stop thrill ride similar to one-shot movie Victoria, Good Time is also about the hard living ways that plague those who live by it. We don’t necessarily need to sympathize with Robert Pattinson’s Connie or the other characters in the film who dabble in a variety of vices. But I was moved by the realism. I was shocked by how the Safdie Brothers depicted their internal pain. I was knocked from the privileged reality of my world and thrust into the rough and decay of another world full of the same yearnings and emotions; Our need to connect, to feel safe and a hope for a better life. Connie’s journey throughout the film is fueled by a sense of longing for his brother. The downright absurd risks he was willing to take to break him out of custody sometimes made the film more lofty than it needed to be. But for the most part, we have to allow the film-makers the freedom to bend the narrative. And if we do, Good Time rises above its incredulous nature to something we mull about days after watching the film.
Technically, I liked how the Safdie Brothers shot their film. Filled with the luminous colours that paint the city at night and a booming soundtrack meant to mirror the jittery anxious nature of the protagonist, Good Time is a nightmarish ride from beginning to end. The constant inclusion of its thrilling soundtrack took away some of the emotional weight the film was trying to convey but I wasn’t too concerned about that.
What I found so tragic was the final third of the film. It all came crashing down and you realize that nothing was ever there to begin with. Spectacularly heart-pounding for most of the film, Good Time builds to a climax so devastatingly heartbreaking that I just sat through the credits without moving. Free from the glorification of crime as an escapist version of redemption and anti-heroism (seen in many great crime and noir films), Good Time is not concerned with redeeming or romanticizing the struggles of people like Connie. It only aims to give them a voice.