A kind of Dionysian New York Gesamtkunstwerk, Good Time finds Josh and Benny Safdie operating on a grander scale, placing viewers in the backseat for a long night’s ride. Over the course of this immersive film we witness a series of choices that seem like good ideas at the time, but progressively lead the protagonist, one small-time crook named Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson, never better), ever deeper into a sinkhole of his own creation. It’s the charismatic Connie and his mentally disabled brother Nick (a bulked-up Benny Safdie) against the world, as the film begins with a bank heist gone wrong, then death spirals into the New York night, as Connie steamrolls through Queens trying to help his brother, encountering a wild cast of characters who he adroitly uses to his advantage. To Connie’s credit, he always manages to devise a clever solution that puts him one step ahead, before taking another step backwards: a man of street smarts, he’s operating on survival instinct and adrenaline rather than intellect, or even emotion.
But street smarts can only get you so far. Good Time is a taut work bereft of waste, one in which every element – screenplay (by Josh Safdie and Ronnie Bronstein), performances (from the entire cast), editing (by Benny Safdie and Bronstein), glorious widescreen, frequently low-light photography (by Sean Price Williams, his first 35mm effort), and, most of all, the electro-Wagnerian soundtrack (by Oneohtrix Point Never) – has clearly been obsessed over. The Safdies provide little room for the viewer to breathe as Good Time leaps propulsively from essential scene to essential scene in the throbbing vein of action cinema. Cementing its place in the New York-by-night canon, this is a film about brotherly love that feels familiar, but is done in a way that we’ve never quite seen before.Mark Peranson