Watching their movies out of order, Good Time was the previous Safdie Brothers film, another criminal thrill feature released years before Uncut Gems.
Good Time features two brothers, Connie (Robert Pattinson) and Nick (Benny Safdie). Nick’s brain is non-typical and his brother Connie manipulates him into a bank heist that leaves Nick locked up for the crime while Connie spends the rest of the film trying to free his brother.
Unlike Uncut Gems‘ Howard (Adam Sandler), Connie seems to actually care about someone besides himself, and there are few enough side characters that everyone gets to have a moment. Connie’s girlfriend Loren, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, does a terrific job depicting someone who is trapped in a bad relationship with both Connie and her familial relationship with her mother.
Ultimately, this film is better for the space it gives those side characters, their realistic portrayal helps the world of Good Time feels more real than Uncut Gems. The spaces the characters visit and inhabit are also true to real city spaces. A Dominos to hide inside with a pissed off manager, a shitty local bank to rob, the home of some nice people Connie takes advantage of will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever struggled to pay for food and find the energy to clean, even the amusement park doesn’t feel fake.
Good Time also comments on stereotypes. Dash (Barkhad Abdi) is a Black security guard that Connie beats into unconsciousness, and doses with enough acid to make The Undertaker hallucinate for a year. Connie races to Dash’s home to conduct business in order to get money for bailing out Nick, but audibly remarks that the apartment is actually well furnished, and it is. This is an apartment that Dash cared about, and he is added to the list of people that Connie undeservedly steps on in order to help Nick.
There is no existence under capitalism that doesn’t involve stepping on other people, and that is true in the fiction of Good Time as well. In the opening, the brother’s bank heist was going well, but the bank teller hides an explosive dye pack in the money bag. Both risking her life, if the brothers-as-robbers were armed during the heist and they realized what was in the money bag, and when the dye pack goes off it caused an unintended car crash that could have been fatal for any pedestrians caught in the way. Just to protect the bottom-line of a bank whose money is insured to begin with.
The characters of Good Time are interesting, the world feels more realistic than other thrillers including the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems, and the movie has an important message behind the thrills about capitalism even if most people will miss it. I like a lot about this movie, but I will note there is a particularly disturbing scene where Connie attempts to sleep with a sixteen-year-old girl in order to distract her before the local TV news program gives a report on the bank robbery. Fortunately, no clothes come off before they are interrupted, but it is another incident where Connie feels he has to do something in order to not create another witness to his flight from “justice.”