FNE at Cannes 2017: Good Time COMPETITION

Good Time, dir, Benny and Josh Safdie Good Time, dir, Benny and Josh Safdie

CANNES: Safdie brothers, Benny and Josh, have followed up on their gritty Heaven Knows What that delved into the New York heroin scene with a fast paced street drama Good Time starring Robert Pattinson as a bank robber clearly cut in the mold of Al Pacino and Dog Day Afternoon.

In fact the Safdie Brothers work generally seems to hark back to the best of 1970s American cinema and the references to Scorsese and other 1970s American masters is no doubt intentional. 

Pattinson plays a low class would be bank robber Connie Nikas from Queens in New York.  He and his mentally handicapped brother Nick Nikas played by Benny Safdie attempt to rob a bank but the heist goes badly and his brother lands in jail.

The film opens with Nick being put through some psychological tests by a psychiatrist played by Peter Verby.  Nick is clearly nervous and we see right from the beginning that this is a damaged human being that nothing is going to turn out right for.  Connie drags his brother out of the mental institution but plunges him straight into an ill-conceived bank robbery.

After the botched bank job the film becomes a thriller as Connie embarks on a twisted one night odyssey through the city's underworld in an increasingly desperate attempt to get his brother out of jail. We share a night of violence and mayhem as he attempts to get Nick out of jail knowing that both of their lives hang in the balance.  We never quite find out what makes the two brothers tick but hints about a damaged and abusive childhood are thrown into the mix.

While many of the film’s references hark back to the 1970s this is also clearly 2017 American where the social disenfranchisement cuts across a much wider segment than just the underworld the two brothers inhabit.

The performances the Safdie’s draw from their performers stay in the mind even those of the secondard characters. Jennifer Jason Leigh turns in a brilliant performance as Connie’s girlfriend Corey while Taliah Webster who plays teenager Crystal is a newcomer to watch in future.

As for Pattinson it is easily a career best so far and images of his Twilight character are wiped from the mind as he turns in a whirlwind performance.  The younger Safdie brother Benny reveals his talent as an actor as well as co-directing the film while Josh gets the credit for writing the script.  Experimental musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s set the film’s pulsing, frenzied pace with an electro-rock score that really makes it an integral part of the manic action. The Safdie brothers team up with cinematographer Sean Price Williams also adds to the tension.

If this is a story about brotherly love it is a dysfunctional kind of brotherly love that leaves us dizzy with its twists and turns.  This is the Safdie brothers third outing as feature film directors with Daddy Longlegs and Heaven Knows What already earning them a cult following.  This might just be their most commercial outing to date.

Credits: Good Time (USA, Luxembourg)
Directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Verby, Barkhad Abdi, Gladys Mathon, Necro