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Good Time, the new NYC docu-guerrilla-verite slice of gritty NYC urbanism from brothers Josh and Ben Safdie, is a good time. It’s intriguing, bold, exciting, fresh and urgent.
Robert Pattinson – quite possibly doing the best work of his career – plays a Queens criminal with drive and instinct but perhaps not a massive eye for the big picture (nor a huge intellect). When a heist involving him and his intellectually challenged brother doesn’t go quite according to plan, it sets him off on an overnight urban adventure. Pattinson contacted the Safdie brothers after seeing their fantastic 2015 gritty heroin drama Heaven Knows What – seek it out, it’s just terrific – and they wrote the script for him.
The Safdies are fascinating filmmakers, using long lenses and employing a “Street Casting” crew member to shoot many of their New York scenes amongst actual, and sometimes unknowing, New Yorkers from hidden, far away positions, and real people doing their real jobs – or otherwise, such as the real prisoners in the film. It’s cool that Pattinson not only decided to work with them but to work in this style, which must take some guts, especially when you’re a British world-famous heart-throb hiding behind a goatee, bleached hair and a Queens accent. Like his Twilight castmate Kristen Stewart and Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, Pattinson, obviously the possessor of a gargantuan bank account, now works for the challenge, not the money. This role would have been a big one, and he pulls it off extremely well.
The first twenty minutes or so of this film are staggering, to the point that I became thrillingly expectant of having the best cinema experience of 2017. Unfortunately, the urgent intense excitement of that slick first act doesn’t sustain, and as the story enters nighttime the film slows a little and grows murkier, introducing a major new character (played by Buddy Duress, one of the actual street denizens from Heaven Knows What, and basically only an actor when called upon by the Safdies) who, despite the authenticity of the performer, feels a little inauthentic to the story.
In the main, however, this is urgent, mesmerizing, extremely exciting “pure cinema”, and totally worth your twenty bucks and one hundred and one minutes. The original score, by Oneohtrix Point Never, is creepy, evocative and the best of the year thus far. Recommended.