Since it premiered at Cannes earlier this year, the Safdie brothers' man-on-the-run, darkly comedic thriller Good Time has been hailed as something of a return to classic New York movies, i.e. from before the Giuliani cleanup, when Martin Scorsese was experimenting with cinema on the streets. In this film, Ben Safdie plays mentally challenged Nick Nikas, and Robert Pattinson dons a Queens accent to play Nick's brother Connie Nikas in a kind of mashup of After Hours and Of Mice and Men. Most of the story takes place within a tense 24-hour period, as the characters -- Connie, especially -- race through the borough, interacting with its inhabitants. These people -- an African-born security guard, a Jamaican grandmother, a hospitalized drug dealer -- are shorthand for the "real" New York, and just like in so many other "classic New York movies," the Safdies shine a grimy bare-bulb light on them. But if the real NYC is that diverse, how is it that Mean-Streets cinema is always led by manipulative and violent men?
Pattinson is nearly unrecognizable under a scraggly beard and greasy mop of hair, with the nervous charisma of a street hustler. After a botched bank robbery, Connie gets caught up in a long succession of detours and coincidences on his way to bail his bro out of jail. Whenever he's cornered, Connie's eyes dew up and jitter -- he's like a fight-or-flight Chihuahua in a big-dog park.
The Safdie bros have said that Connie is a good guy because he's often using his brain instead of guns, but the victims of his brainpower are a lot of women and people of color who are portrayed as dumb punch lines and entirely dispensable.