Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) is a young man who is mentally impaired, and relies on his brother to get him through life, which would be fine except brother Connie (Robert Pattinson) is one of the worst people he could have chosen to help him. The care authorities have been trying to break Connie's hold over him, and have arranged visits to a therapist to work out what assistance he needs, but his sibling has a habit of gatecrashing these sessions and taking Nick away, as he does today for he has plans for him. Plans that are simply no good: Connie wishes to rob a local bank, and needs Nick to succeed.
Although precisely why Nick had to be there at all is something of a mystery that smacked of plot contrivance, Good Time was an otherwise absorbing character study about a subject who struggled to have any character at all. Connie was a bad 'un, and that was all you needed to know about him, convenient since that was all we were told, as Pattinson, having long left his brief spell in teen blockbusters behind him in favour of exploring the limits of his abilities in indie drama around the world, served up his best "dem, dese and dose" acting for one of those small time criminals who low budget directors, in this case the Safdie brothers, were attracted to like the proverbial moths to a flame.
Martin Scorsese was one of those mentioned in the "Gratitude" section at the end credits, and there was a definite Mean Streets approach to this, in tone, setting and style if not plot. Pattinson was the Robert De Niro character, the reckless one who gets into all sorts of danger because he is not able to think ahead very well, which presumably made co-director and star Benny Safdie the Harvey Keitel one, the conscience who can only look on while his brother lands them deeper and deeper in trouble. That the bank robbery Connie has arranged does not work out as they hoped is therefore not too much of a surprise, but that's what happens and Nick is arrested in the street as he escapes in a panic.
The Safdies assembled an interesting cast of unknowns and more familiar performers, though there were times they did not seem one hundred percent sure of what to do with them as the film continually threatened to meander off into a tangent rather than sticking to the point. That was part of the atmosphere of an "into the night" movie, as this unfolded over the course of twenty-four hours and most of that occurred after nightfall from our perspective as Nick is beaten up while in custody (by other prisoners objecting to him switching television channels) and sent to hospital. The rest of it brought us not the adventures of a recuperating Nick, but those of Connie as he sneaks into the building and attempts to track down his brother with a view to liberating him from the clutches of the cops.
Again, Connie being a rather one note persona we are not sure whether he does this out of fraternal concern or whether he wishes to avoid him talking to the police and giving his sibling away (though Nick is not the most communicative of men). That Connie could have achieved, and indeed botched, his robbery just as well without Nick as he did with him was a bit of a sticking point, and no matter that he has a late on speech where he proclaims himself far smarter than a hanger-on he has picked up along the way was sounding like protesting too much. He’s not an idiot, exactly, he has a low cunning that can get him out of (and into) bad situations, but we come away from Good Time thinking we've watched a hundred minutes of needless self-sabotage by a man who perhaps circumstances such as poverty have corrupted, but on the other hand might have been preoccupied with proving himself in the criminal realm as a matter of misplaced pride. It was a compelling watch, but its protagonist was a tough person to enjoy following unless you really wanted him to fail. Moody electro-music by Daniel Lopatin.