Wednesday, July 29, 2020


by Anthony King
“Somebody's stickin' a red hot poker up our asses and I wanna know whose name's on the handle.”

Have you ever watched a movie and felt like you you just snorted a six-foot line of coke? Now, I've never done cocaine before but I imagine watching a Safdie Bros. film is the equivalent of doing blow. That's why I've needed some sort of release after seeing Good Time and Uncut Gems, whether that be a drink, a cigarette, a “fun” movie, or all of the above. That's one reason I've paired these two films. The other reason is because of the slightest of connections: a heist gone wrong. Other than that, Good Time and Reservoir Dogs really have nothing in common.

The Safdies and QT are pros at creating the anti-hero, whether that's Mr. White or Vincent Vega or Connie Nikas or Howard Ratner. These characters are horrible human beings, but their creators showcase their humanity so well that we as the audience can't help but feel somewhat of a connection. The other thing is the Safdies and QT have casting down to an exact science. Robert Pattinson in Good Time showed the world he wasn't just a moody, pale faced, teenage vampire. He was given a role that no one else could play. The same goes for any of the main characters in Dogs. You can't even imagine anyone besides Michael Madsen dancing to “Stuck In the Middle With You.” Steve Buscemi is the only Mr. Pink. Harvey Keitel is the only Mr. White. In that sense, these are two wholly original movies. Of course, there's plenty of influence to be seen in each, but it's the characters and the actors who portray those characters who make these two one-of-a-kind films.
If you've never seen Good Time, allow me to do a quick rundown for you. The movie opens with Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) in a therapy session. We learn Nick is developmentally disabled and hasn't had the greatest upbringing. His brother Connie busts in and takes Nick against the counselor's protests. The very next scene the brothers are at a bank wearing masks. They rob it, get in a car, but a dye pack explodes, covering both in a brilliant pink. They try to run, Nick gets caught and goes to jail. The rest of the movie is Connie trying to bust his brother out. Connie is 100% a piece of shit, but his guilt eats at him, showing us the humanity to this otherwise awful person.

This is a career-defining/changing/revealing performance for Pattinson. Benny Safdie is amazing as Nick. He has a very distinct look and he knows how to use it. And while this isn't their first feature, this put the Safdies on the map. Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up for a minute and she's brilliant as always. Every single performance, shot, and song is completely authentic. If you're willing to go along for a ride with some not-so-great people, you will love this movie (even if you only watch it once).

Like all of their features and shorts, the Safdies have created a balls-to-the-wall, INTENSE, movie. The movie ends and you don't know how you're supposed to feel. Your blood pressure has sky-rocketed, your heart is racing, maybe you're crying (like me the second time I saw it), maybe your staring in disbelief (like me the first time I saw it). That drink or cigarette will help. Watch Good Time all the way through the credits, get up and make that drink, take a smoke break outside and get some fresh air, and then come back in and pop in something fun. Might I suggest Reservoir Dogs?
I'm not going to say a whole lot about Dogs because if you're reading this, chances are you've seen it a dozen times. It never gets old, does it? I'll never forget the first time I saw it. It was 1996 and I was at my friend Ben's house. I'd just watched Pulp Fiction for the first time the weekend before, and he asked if I'd ever seen Reservoir Dogs? I'd never heard of it. He told me to call my parents and tell them I wouldn't be home for dinner. Ben wheeled out his old tube TV and VCR and we sat in his basement mudroom and watched Reservoir Dogs. Having seen Pulp Fiction only two days prior, I was now a Tarantino disciple.

Just like Connie Nikas in Good Time, we're watching a group of men who are not good people. But we learn who the good bad ones are and who the bad bad ones are and we pick our favorites. Like any QT, it's all about the dialogue. And that's where perfect casting comes into play again. Not just any actor can deliver Tarantino dialogue; probably because he usually writes for specific people. But after the bottle of speed you just downed by watching Good Time, you need to have that beautiful release, and nothing is a better release than a Tarantino film.

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