C.J.’s review published on Letterboxd:
My mind kept wandering to Joel Potrykus' Buzzard while watching this, which isn't too surprising. Potrykus' film is pretty recent, and both movies deal with protagonists who jackhammer their way through rock bottom to find new levels of depravity. But with Buzzard it's easy to have an understanding for Marty's actions, even if they're extremely stupid. Everything he does is a matter of self-preservation by gaming the system, with one attempt after another to skate around rules and regulations to get himself ahead. It was a horror show to watch Marty fuck up so much, but the motivation was easy to understand and empathize with to some degree.
Maybe I'm just describing Buzzard instead of Good Time here because I think the Safdies' film is devoid of anything as compelling or interesting as Buzzard. It starts with two brothers robbing a bank, but we don't know why. One of them gets caught, and the brother who gets away uses the money to try and bail the other one out of jail. The purpose of wanting the money beforehand doesn't get revealed, and it doesn't matter to the Safdies anyway; this is more about someone with their back against the wall trying to slither their way out on a moment by moment basis. There's just one problem: there's absolutely no reason to give two shits about what's going on.
So without any impetus to invest in this character or story, Good Time expects to get by purely on style, which is fine. There are lots of talented people doing good work here (the MVPs being Sean Price Williams and Oneohtrix Point Never), they're just doing work that feels like it's worshiping an older era of filmmaking, and that sort of thing bores me most of the time. I don't find anything the Safdies might have to say about class or race interesting in the slightest, and the attempts to directly talk about it fall flat (everything involving Ben Safdie's character just feels gross). The style is too slick to be grimy, and the detachment from the narrative just makes its 'one-step-forward-two-steps-back' structure more transparent. I dunno, I got very little out of this.