Already a film festival favourite, the latest from auteur filmmaker brothers Joshua and Ben Safdie may prove to be a major breakthrough for the duo. Good Time indulges their love of rough and often very unlikeable characters with a stronger narrative and emotional thrust they have ever achieved. The film does this without abandoning the dynamic and texture that make their films so thrilling.
Robert Pattinson obliterates his Twilight heartthrob image with his lead performance as Constantine "Connie" Nikas, first seen when he pulls his handicapped brother Nick (played by co-director Ben Safdie) out of a much-needed therapy session to commit a rather droll bank robbery. Inevitably, things don't go to plan, and the two brothers are separated. Connie walks free, and Nick finds himself incarcerated and still in danger.
Taking place over scarcely more than a 24-hour period, Good Time packs awful choices, obscene selfishness, a cast of pitiable characters, and constantly sky-rocketing tension into its almost manic narrative. It would seem absurd if the character of Connie and his relationship with his brother hadn't been set up so beautifully by a more slower-paced first act. The enigmatic nature of the character slowly emerges, despite the chaos surrounding him.
Pattinson's performance - wide-eyed, constantly calculating - is nothing short of miraculous. Opposite him, despite being on screen for much less time, Ben Safdie and Jennifer Lason Lee carrie the emotional core of the film with naturalistic and very touching performances. Other performances from the other Safdie, Joshua, and Taliah Webster - both as characters unwittingly dragged into the story - create an immediate and lasting impression.
Shooting in tight, unsteady closeups is a Safdie trademark, and here that distinct visual style is used to woozy and often enthrallingly uncomfortable effect. That much of the film's visual are restricted to only faces only makes the performances even more impressive. The grainy, gritty images are disorientating and textural, and the cast of complex and often unpleasant characters are the only anchor for the audience.
Good Time won the soundtrack award at Cannes, and it's very easy to see why. Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, presented a series of blurred, pulsating creations. The music is thoroughly modern at the same time as it is a pastiche of the tropes (whirling synth arpeggios, wailing guitars) of action movie soundtracks. A subdued vocal feature from the normally outrageous Iggy Pop completes the emotional arc that brings sound and vision together.
At its very heart Good Time is also a pastiche of action movies. It considers destruction and mayhem while also considering the emotional impact on the people involved, even only in passing. There is a bitter irony to the title that boldly underscores the character of Connie and his uncaring, single-minded path through the movie. Bookended by scenes of intense intimacy, there's no second guessing what sort of person he truly is.
Good Time opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday October 12th (Thursday October 19th in South Australia).