Constantine Niklas, a volatile name reduced to the amiable Connie, is a danger. The lethal threat: he’s convinced himself he’s not, that his lies are heartfelt truth, and that their fallout is justified. The evidence is in the bathrooms, the Dominoes restroom he smears with red aerosol from a dye-rigged cash stack, the stranger's he raids for way-expired hair dye, and the one he announces he’ll shit in just after a sincere declaration to his seduced and underaged passenger.
But really, it’s the people left to cold-over in Connie’s wake. The ones who watch him leave their lives knowing he's forgotten them in the same moment they realize he’ll always haunt them.
He’s a pestilence passed to the receiving end of his breaths of deceit. A meek one, though, solely able of infecting the weak, the young, and the disadvantaged.
And you might find him irresistible. Maybe not for his manic chihuahua jitters, but for where he avenues that slippy surge. The manipulation, the death, and the debt Connie accumulates on the trail of his swaying Godzilla tail might even, for a moment, feel justified by the destination.
Connie is responsible for his brother Nick’s incarceration at the notorious Rikers Island, New York City’s adaptation of Hell, after swindling him into a botched bank robbery. Nick is mentally challenged and his time at Rikers is depicted as potentially his last. Connie vies to get his brother out by the end of the night and will sacrifice anyone to do so. The price starts at bail and scales to perennial trauma.
This expedition through the cop & criminal burghals of New York City will intermittently ascend its urban milieu to mythos. Police sirens hovering just above a sea of car roofs evokes, verbatim, the shrieking reveal of a stalking shark fin. A hypnotic helicopter shot of our antagonist cruising the city recalls the language of a Live Broadcasted car chase with the appropriate infusion of cinematic stabilization. At Rikers Island, the camera floats to a dramatic emphasis; it only ever feels so surreal when we’re taken back to an interjection from the film’s wildcard Ray, the story of a first day out of jail gone awry.
The Safdie’s know the grammar. They know that when they snap zoom to Connie intruding on his brother’s therapy that they’ve already sold you on the problem. That’s a double entendre, Connie presents a problem for me. I can’t argue it objectively. As deliberate anti-hero pulp it’s clean & even cognizant. Connie applies racial politics as an economic means of destroying two characters to save himself. The film never looks back, and in the context & sake of entertainment, nor should it. This is not their story; it’s bleach blonde Robert Pattinson’s. The lenses love him, and the rest should be collateral left to haunt us.
But I found discomfort in the order of priorities. They go something like: Aesthetic grunge, shock factor, brotherly love, morality play, and why not some racial asides? The careful sibling warmth, a strong excuse for the rest, is blueprinted at the beginning and end. And, by Benny Safdie and Pattinson’s performances, it works. I can’t discredit it for how it is; it’s impeccably mounted in grime on 2-perf 35mm film with synthesizer whines (courtesy Oneohtrix Point Never, who took Best Soundtrack at Cannes) screeching over the entire print. But I have no regret in my cynicism for what Good Time is: a cool exercise with an amoral darling whose platitudes and sidelined characters hardly veil its antecedents.