This American crime drama is the story of two brothers, who rob a New York bank. The younger man is mentally challenged; the older older brother wants the money; and everything goes wrong. Petty criminal, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson), is devoted to his mentally challenged younger brother, Nick (Ben Safdie), and together they rob the bank for $65,000, which looks successful until things go off the rails.
After the robbery, their getaway car crashes, and Nick panics, which causes the police to pursue them. Nick is confused and terrified by what is happening to him, and he is arrested by the Police, while Connie escapes. Connie comes back, and uses the stolen money to try to bail Nick out with the help of a New York Bail shop. The money is not enough, and Connie asks his girlfriend, Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to use her elderly mother’s credit cards to pay the balance, but Corey’s mother is sufficiently suspicious of Connie that she has already cancelled them. While Nick is in prison, he gets into a fight, and is hospitalised. Connie constructs a plan to break Nick out of the hospital, and, when he executes it, he manages to rescue Ray (Buddy Duress), a confirmed criminal waiting for parole, instead of his brother. Once free, Ray leads Connie into heavy drug trafficking that goes seriously wrong.
Connie eventually admits to the bank robbery to protect his brother, and is arrested. Nick is released and enters therapy. The film ends with signs that Nick is slowly recovering from the traumas that have beset him, while his brother is yet to face a long time in prison.
This is a turbulent movie that is very raw in impact. It realistically explores events that go wrong in almost every way. There is no attempt at all to glorify Connie’s bad behaviour. The movie is tense, involving, and tinged with pathos. Everything occurs over the space of a day and night, during which Connie, Nick and Ray behave as people trapped in an environment that is as spontaneous and unpredictable as existed in “Trainspotting” (1996).
The film takes the viewer energetically on a thrill ride that holds its tension, because the viewer always knows it could end badly. It is an emotional roller-coaster of encounters. The direction is innovative, the camera-work and editing are extremely fluid, the lighting draws attention to Connie by frequently bathing him in contrasting hues, and a powerful musical score accompanies the action through it all. The film as a whole has an incredible “staccato” feel to it.
Pattinson gives a high octane performance as Connie, and he delivers a bravura picture of brotherly, misguided love. At the heart of the movie is a story about singular devotion. Connie is fiercely protective of his hearing-impaired and intellectually disabled brother, and he thinks Nick can’t survive without his help. He is driven constantly to help his brother, but never really does so, because he pushes himself all the time into messy situations. Although the movie overall has a bleak tone, it successfully attempts to find comedy in its grimness, as when Connie whispers to his brother in the bank, as they rob it, that he is not to worry because “it’s almost over”.
This is an original movie that is hard to categorise. It doesn’t deliver what its title suggests. It is not a fun experience, and it aims to disturb. The “GoodTime” of the title refers ironically to the reduction of prison time for good behaviour – time which Connie is to serve.
The Safdie brothers deliver a bleak picture of New York City, its drug culture, and its sordid underworld. It is cinema that is emotionally chargedand it has raw energy. The film is basically about a series of luckless persons navigating a life that is never likely to succeed. The movie makes its points unpredictably, often brutally, but thoughtfully. This is a strong movie, that sharply and creatively delivers some very solid punches.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting