‘Good Time’: An Adrenaline-Filled Exploration Of Humanity And The Criminal Justice System

Good Time: An Adrenaline-Filled Exploration Of Humanity And The Criminal Justice System

Kelly Rossano, Movie Reviewer

With Robert Pattinson back in the spotlight for his new starring role as Bruce Wayne in “The Batman,” it’s a great time to look back on his career, and to one movie Pattinson completely delivers in, and no it’s not “Twilight.” This film received a 6-minute standing ovation at the Cannes film festival, yet no one I’ve asked has ever heard of it.
“Good Time” is a film directed by Benny and Josh Safdie in 2017 (brothers and co-workers better known for producing “Uncut Gems” in 2019). The movie tracks the terrible night of Connie, played by Robert Pattinson, and his journey to save his mentally disabled brother Nick from Rikers island (played by co-director Benny Safdie).
Set in Queens, N.Y. “Good Time” is a thrilling yet sad story of a blue-collar experience with the criminal justice system and an adrenaline-filled attempt to make bail money through any means possible.
While his journey is paved with noble intentions, Connie is not a character we’re meant to like, and plenty of jaw-dropping scenes are set up to reinforce that. Whether he’s the antagonist or the protagonist may change multiple times throughout the movie- and that is completely intentional. The Safdie brothers explore the idea of a messy humanity in a way that feels real and scuzzy, that you rarely see in today’s Hollywood productions.
Like most A24 movies, the camera work and the cinematography are stellar and effective. The neon bathed New York City, and tightly shot close-ups elevate the movie into more than just a crime drama. The synth-heavy soundtrack was specially composed for the movie by Onehonix Point Never with an end credit song featuring the gravelly narrative-style voice of Iggy Pop.
Pattinson’s performance perfectly captures the nervous energy of someone living on the lower rungs of society. His character makes decisions that feel impatient, animalistic and desperate. The actor looks nearly unrecognizable with bad platinum-blond hair, earrings and a New York accent. Pattinson’s body language throughout the entire film takes us into the mind of a trapped individual with a ticking clock over his shoulder. The tight camera work does a great job in reinforcing that claustrophobia.
Between the abstract themes of Connie’s humanity, there is a point being made about the U.S. criminal justice system in its handling of Nick. The name “Good Time” itself comes from the credit-based behavioral points inmates can gain for an early release from prison.
Connie doesn’t have the money to bail out his brother, which causes him to come up with new schemes and consequently causes new problems and newer schemes – a demonstration in how a toxic system can be self-reinforcing.
The American criminal justice system is known for being relatively weak in terms of equality, especially compared to other wealthy developed countries, and justice is heavily centered around wealth. With a shortage of good public defense and the existence of bail bonds, the system feels rigged against the lower class.
Before even having a court hearing, those who can’t pay their bail can be forced to lose their jobs, fall short on rent, etc., because they are confined until their hearing, which can take weeks.
If Nick were to plead guilty but suffer the consequences, the black mark that leaves on a record can make it very difficult to find employment and removes much of one’s eligibility for government assistance. (Nick needs government assistance as a mentally disabled person.)
According to the U.S. justice department, 60-90 percent of criminal defendants can’t afford their own lawyers, leaving them reliant on public court-appointed defenders, whose time and ability is stretched incredibly thin.
Nick’s disability would make him less culpable for the crime than Connie would be, but this fact only is addressed in the opening scene and during the end credits, both of which are heavily emotional and well-acted.
I think this movie does an incredible job of showing believable characters in believable situations. A good movie makes you think, long after the credits stop rolling, and this movie had me thinking long and hard about the difficult decisions and situations some people put themselves in to survive.
Whether the ending is satisfactory or not is entirely up to the viewer. So, I implore everyone (with a strong stomach) to watch this film and test where their moral compass points.