Good Time (dir. Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, 2017) – Constantine Nikas spends a night attempting to break his brother out of prison after a botched robbery.
Promising less than its namesake, Good Time presents an unflinching portrait of crime, propelled by misguided familial love.
In hopes for a better future, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) ropes his mentally handicapped brother Nick (Ben Safdie) into his precarious life of crime. But a botched bank heist lands Nick in prison alone and leaves him unable to cope behind bars, where only the harshest of convicts escape unscathed.
The pure always act from love, the damned always act from love. Iggy Pop’s haunting track captures the complex dynamics of the Nikas brothers in Good Time. There is much to admire about how layered characters are despite minimal exposition. For instance, while it is never clear what first led Connie down the transgressive path, his criminal inclination seems borne of a misguided belief that the means may justify the end.
His intent, as his brother believes, is pure, “The money was for us, he was going to buy me a farm… He did it for us.” The truth of it is left ambiguous. Connie’s actions may come from a genuine place of love, seen in his desperation to break Nick out of prison at all costs. But his manipulative personality also appears to manifest from his deep-set narcissism.
This is seen in Connie’s apathy as his crime vents its consequences on the hapless underclass. He assumes a different race for his masked robbery, manipulates teenage girl Crystal (Taliah Webster) into being his accomplice, and sets up black security guard Dash (Barkhad Abdi) as the fall guy during his escape from the police.
And how easy it was for him to do so. Connie’s constant ability to exploit the systemic prejudice against black people, offers a thought-provoking commentary on privilege. The distressing events that follow never shy away from the resultant violence, its realism speaking volumes about the modern society.
Stylistically, echoes of Drive resound. The heist film utilises a synth soundtrack and neon-lit landscapes, keeping pace with the intense adrenaline ride. Only that Connie invites less sympathy in his anti-hero than the Driver did. All culpability falls on him, for embroiling Nick who knows nothing of a life without his brother, and deserves so much more.
Every day I think about untwisting and untangling these strings I’m in. The brothers’ bond by blood entangles their inseparable ill fates, damned by circumstance. Or so Nick is led to believe. The eventual resolution to his troubles marks a powerful release from what had seemed so relentlessly bleak, holding careful hope in the ambivalence of his tomorrow.