kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
Give me the first twenty minutes of this film over and over again. Give me the frenetic pacing, the tight closeups and saturated colors from Sean Price Williams, the pounding, pulsating synths from Oneohtrix Point Never’s incredible score. Give me the palpable sense of desperation in the air, the mountains and valleys of hope and panic, the brief but powerful expressions of fraternal love that flow through the rapidly disintegrating situation. Give me Robert Pattinson’s brilliant performance, the way his character pushes on even as the weight of other lives fall onto his shoulders, the way he walks and holds himself throughout the film. All of the above work well in tandem. It’s an engrossing and memorable experience. It’s a well-oiled cacophony.
However, some of the momentum built up in the opening grinds to a halt with the introduction of more characters–as well as missteps like a certain flashback sequence–all of whom aren’t exactly developed in the most fluid of ways. The debate about the “correct” amount of exposition and character development is never really going to be solved because the same amount can succeed or fail in different scenarios. For instance, in this film, I care about Pattinson’s character and his very simple desire to save his brother. I also care about his brother. I’m not particularly invested in anyone else, though, and that’s a problem given how often he and his brother don’t share the same scene. Everything about the middle section, from the acting to the technical elements, are top notch, but the flow of the screenplay could use a little work. It’s not bad by any means; in fact, it’s good enough to garner a 4 star rating and a temporary place in my top 5 of the year. It just loses its way a bit.
Thankfully, the ending refocuses just enough to deliver a punch straight to the gut. It features a devastatingly ironic line uttered in a completely innocuous manner, but the emotions it evokes in us are very clear. In a way, it’s the key to the film as a whole, a film that is ultimately a high wire act centered around authentic human emotion. It poses the age old question: “What will you do for the ones you love?” Then it asks a followup: “Are you able to do it?” Are you able to provide when the world you live in defines your limitations? The title of the film refers to sentence reductions for prisoners who exhibit good behavior during their incarcerations. It’s an interesting concept because maybe the “free world” itself can be a prison of sorts. Maybe “good time” is just biding time until the next cop you have to avoid, money you have to steal, person you have to fuck over, or person you have to love.