Connie Nikas is a petty criminal attempting to take care of his mentally handicapped brother Nicky. When Nicky gets arrested after a bank robbery and sent to Rikers Island, Connie is terrified that something terrible is going to happen to his brother. The absorbing crime drama Good Time is about the lengths Connie goes to in order to get his brother out of jail by morning while avoiding the police himself.
The Nikas brothers’ relationship is made clear right from the first scene when Connie barges into a therapist’s office and forces Nicky to leave with him. He feels Nicky is far better off with him than with a trained professional. It is implied that the two of them had a difficult upbringing and Connie feels like he is the only one who can take care of his brother. Unfortunately, his means of taking care of Nicky are reckless and cause problems that Connie may not know how to fix.
Connie is played by Robert Pattinson (sparkly vampire Edward from the Twilight series) in an exhausting performance as a man who does not know any way out but straight ahead. He is in nearly every scene and he (along with the excellent, hypnotic score by Daniel Lopatin) makes you feel Connie’s intense desperation. He legitimately loves Nicky and will do anything to help him, even though he has no idea what Nicky really needs. I cannot tell you anymore about what he does because that would lessen the experience of seeing him make those decisions. However, his love for his brother is strong enough that he feels justified taking advantage of other people, even the woman he claims to love (Jennifer Jason Leigh in a small, but very strong, performance).
Robert Pattinson has become very interesting over the last couple of years due to the combination of smart role choices and his own maturation as a performer. He may have come into the public eye because of his looks, but films like The Rover (2014), The Lost City of Z (2017) and Good Time have shown him blossom into a legitimate actor.
The film was directed by the Safdie brothers, Benny (who co-stars as Nicky) and Josh (who co-wrote the screenplay). They are from New York City and they shot Good Time on location. That choice adds to the gritty realism of the story. New York City is like another character here. Sometimes it seems to help Connie; at others, it adds more complications to his mission. They also show a clear skill for pacing. The film is 101 minutes long (the end credits are over the final scene) and that time is filled with pretty much non-stop action. Every moment is filled with an urgency which is brought into even stronger focus thanks to Pattinson’s performance. The movie could have been draining and worn out its audience before it ended. But the drama and emotion of the story make Connie a sympathetic character despite his flaws and that kept the movie engaging all the way through.
Good Time may sound familiar, but it shows a side of New York City that is not often seen on screen. The Safdie brothers’ film is far more ambitious than most action movies. It is not filled with gratuitous chase and fight scenes. Its action comes from the very human needs (and failings) of its main character.
4¼ out of 5
Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas
Benny Safdie as Nick Nikas
Taliah Lennice Webster as Crystal
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Corey Ellman
Buddy Duress as Ray
Directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Written by Ronald Bronstein and Josh Safdie