An independently produced film can be very uneven, compared to a major studio release. But if the small film has a lot of heart and some great acting, then it could be ready for success. Ben & Josh Safdie are brothers who have come up with a movie equivalent of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” with one called ‘Good Time’. It takes a main character who has a dubious moral code and follows his as he embarks on a crosstown adventure in New York City. With a minor budget, they have made a major effort to produce a fine movie.
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) is a smooth-talking con-man loner. His mentally-challenged brother Nick Nikas (Ben Safdie) depends on Connie to protect him. He has a girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who sponges off her grandmother. Low on cash, Connie schemes to hold up a bank with Nick. But all hell breaks loose and Nick is arrested. Connie swears that he will get his brother out tonight, because his brother will not be able to survive. He gets the cash from the robbery, still stained with the explosive ink dye, and takes it to Bail Bond place. Connie is still short on the bail amount for Nick.
However, Nick is not going for a bail hearing tonight. He has been injured in a fight and is at the hospital. Connie goes to where they have taken Nick. A police guard is at the door, but Connie sneaks past and gets the guy handcuffed to the hospital bed. He somehow gets away with the injured man he puts in the wheelchair. Connie sweet-talks an older lady to let him and the injured guy a place to stay. He meets the older lady’s grand-daughter named Crystal (Taliah Webster). The injured sleeping guy wakes up and Connie finds out it not who he thought it was.
Instead, it is Ray (Buddy Duress) who is an ex-con who just got out of jail the day before. He has a wild story to tell about how he got into the hospital. Ray tells a fantastic tale of his first day of freedom, and how he got mixed up with drinking and drugs. He remembers that a load of money and lot of drugs got stashed at a local amusement park. Connie takes a car and goes with Ray and Crystal. Connie is always talking up a great story with elaborate lies. He and Ray go to search the empty amusement park while Crystal stays in the car and waits. Connie and Ray search for the money and drugs, but a security guard named Dash (Barkhad Abdi) finds them. They overpower Dash and Connie dresses up as the guard. Crystal gets caught by the police and they also take Dash, who is now unable to prove who he is.
Connie and Ray leave and go to Dash’s nice apartment. They still have no money, but they found the drugs – so Connie plans of selling them to get the money for Nick’s bail. Ray has a friend who can help with that, but they get suspicious of Connie. But has there been enough laws broken and innocent people hurt for one night? Or does Connie think that his web of deception is strong enough to get his brother back and make with square with his girl? Connie is such a sociopath that he thinks whatever he does will work. So far this single evening, he has not been proven wrong….
Robert Pattinson does an incredible job with this role, his commitment to the role is outstanding. He lives the part playing Connie, with all of his flaws and unrealistic dreams. Connie has a deep emotional bond with his brother Nick, and he will stop at nothing to try and make their lives better. He tells people want they want to hear, with no intention of following through. He even dyes his hair after the robbery when he sees his photo on the evening news. He is dangerous and vicious and he creates a wave of destruction in his path.
The other actors are quite good, even with limited experience. Ben Safdie plays Nick, but he is also the co-director. Buddy Duress plays Ray, and he plays a convincing down-on-his-luck man with a face full of (make-up) injuries. Taliah Webster plays Crystal, and she holds her own against some more seasoned actors. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a little more than a cameo role, as does Barkhad Abdi (he is remembered from the movie ‘Captain Phillips’).
The low-budget does not stop the Safdie bothers from telling an engaging, yet meandering, story. With the pulsating background music that sounds like an all-night rave, this movie has a very wild and almost out-of-control feeling. The craziness of Robert Pattinson in this role gets a person thinking – whatever will come next? You are always kept guessing and wondering, what is the next bad choice will Connie make? And what type of major lie will he tell to get it to happen? What results will occur that could harm even more people?
“Good Time” is a very unusual film, but you can see that there was a lot of thought put into it. The way that it starts like a spinning top, spinning fast in a tight little circle. And then slowly going to wobble just a bit, and then a little bit more… Soon the whole thing could just topple over, but it is fascinating to see what happens next…