‘Good Time’ Review
Charlie Kenney | Thursday, September 7, 2017
“Good Time” should be an average movie, but it isn’t.
The plot isn’t necessarily riveting — a man desperately trying to acquire bail money for his imprisoned brother; the cast isn’t particularly eye-catching and not one known for immense depth in their acting; and the directors haven’t produced anything that has done particularly well with critics or the box office.
When watching the movie, however, all of those apparent truths become lies.
“Good Time’s” plot isn’t just one more crime thriller that will put you to sleep, its cast isn’t just a slew of unremarkable actors and actresses and its directing isn’t the cookie cutter material you’d expect from a previously poorly reviewed director. It’s the exact opposite in almost every regard.
“Good Time” is, in my opinion, one of the most inventive, aesthetically pleasing, mentally stimulating and impressive films in the overdone genre of bank-robbery gone wrong/crime thriller in years — maybe decades. It’s not the “Fast and Furious” oversaturated, car chase heist movies we have become so used to filling up our silver screens and robbing the box office. It’s “Reservoir Dogs,” it’s “The Usual Suspects,” it’s “Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s a new chapter in a genre that we thought had stopped being published.
Yes its plot is an incredibly inventive take on the genre — a man’s search for bail money after a botched bank robbery leads him into drugs, a suburban family’s living room, an abandoned amusement park, a suicide and a heavily guarded hospital. Yet, despite such inventiveness, the plot isn’t what makes the movie as memorable as it is — it’s the characters and actors who bring that plot to life.
The cast is by no means illustrious. Its stars include a former “Twilight” saga star, one of the directors of the movie and an actor who is more famous for being the crux of the “I am the captain now” meme than any movies he actually starred in. In the movie, however, they all break out of their stereotypes and come together to form a beautiful harmony and naturalistic story for the 99 minutes the movie lights up the screen. The aforementioned director — Ben Safdie — physically and mentally transforms himself to portray the incredibly difficult role of an autistic man. Recognizable face and Somali-American star of the 2013 film “Captain Phillips” — Barkhad Abdi — plays an emotionally torn and drug-induced security guard in a beautiful manner. However, as good as other performances are, each is put on the back-burner to that of former “Twilight” vampire and heartthrob — Robert Pattinson.
Pattinson is nothing short of brilliant in his performance. He portrays the brother of an autistic man (Josh Safdie), who is desperately trying to get the money to bail his brother out of the infamous Riker’s Island prison. It’s not a particularly complicated role, he could have just kept doing what he’s done his entire career — recite the lines, go through the actions and look damn good while doing it — but he didn’t. He broke out of the vampire, teenage rom-com mold, and he did so (we hope) permanently. Pattinson didn’t just play a man trying to score cash for his brother; he played an incredibly complicated, multi-faceted character whose every action is torn between love, desire and anger. You can see it in Pattinson’s face when he beats up a security guard in an attempt to avoid arrest, an an action not out of anger, but out of love for his brother. For the majority of the movie, in fact the entire first scene, the cinematographer — Sean Price Williams — only focuses on faces, not entire body shots. This would normally be a rather ambitious move, as bodies tell just as much as face, but Pattinson is so realistic, so precise and so methodical that he doesn’t need a body to show how he’s feeling — all he needs is his eyes, mouth, and everything in between to show the audience the multiple layers of his character’s personality.
Many critical and fan reviews of this movie have fallen into using a similar terminology to describe Pattinson’s performance in “Good Time” — they’ve all said in one way or another that he’s the new Al Pacino, or he’s the new “Robert De Niro” and this is his “Taxi Driver” or that he’s the next go-to protagonist in Scorsese-esque films. Their analysis and comparisons have validity — Pattinson showed brilliance in “Good Time” just like how De Niro put on a method acting master class in “Taxi Driver” — but they’re not an accurate way to describe Pattinson’s performance. Whatever actor Pattinson introduced the world to in “Good Time” it wasn’t De Niro, it wasn’t Pacino and it wasn’t Brando — it was Pattinson. The style in which he acted was uniquely Pattinson — his perfection of a New York accent with his native British tongue was uniquely Pattinson, his facial expression were uniquely Pattinson, everything he did was him and nobody else. Just because he isn’t the first actor to portray a noir protagonist incredibly well, doesn’t mean he has to be compared to someone else.
Pattinson’s performance aside, the film is technically, visually, sonically and narratively very well done. The scenes are scored by a mesmerizing techno soundtrack by Oneohtrix Point Never; nearly every shot that cinematographer Sean Price Williams pick is minimalist, but does exactly what he wants it to do; the screen is constantly a contrast between dark and neon light giving a very unique and ‘80s feel to the film; and the screenplay is incredibly well done — both taking advantage of every actor’s or actress’ strengths while keeping the story exciting and entertaining.
It’s a film where the plot or premise may not be exactly a “Good Time” but it’s one that will put a smile on your face. Thankfully, everything else about the film isn’t just a “Good Time” — it’s a great one.
Directed: The Safdie Brothers
Written: Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie