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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Buddy Duress

Good Time (2017)

Oh. And it is.

After a botched robbery lands his brother in the slammer, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) has to scrounge up whatever money he can find to ensure that his mentally-handicapped brother, Nick (Ben Safdie), gets out and is safe with him. But it’s going to take a lot of wheeling, a lot of dealing, and oh yeah, a whole lot of money to do that. One thing leads to another and all of a sudden, Connie’s night goes from bad to worse and it’s all up to him to constantly think of what’s the next best move to keep him alive, well, and out of the clink with his brother.

Short synopsis, I know, but that’s the point. See, Good Time is one of those movies that’s basically about the one night in hell, that never ends, continues to escalate, gets worse, and builds up to insane proportions of drugs, guns, money, murder, and cops. Lots and lots of cops.

But it’s so damn thrilling and surprising, it hardly even matters that it ends on a conventional note.

Just two brothers walking down a sidewalk. Nothing shady at all..

Good Time is the latest from Ben and Joshua Safdie who have made a name with these small, lean, mean, and gritty indies that verge on pretentious, but still feel realistic enough that it’s okay. In fact, the movies are so dirty and grueling, it’s hard to look away from them; they feel so improvised and cheaply-made, you sort of have to sit and watch and see what they come up with next, even if it can get a little irritating. They’ve never been the biggest fans of plot and in Good Time, that actually helps.

In a way, it allows for the movie to move at an efficient pace, so that when the next crazy moment happens, it’s shocking and surprising, and just adds to the chase. Most crime movies in this same vein and nature tend to get stuck in constant cliches of being on-the-run, not being able to trust anyone, and the constant double-crosses, but not Good Time. While those formulaic-moments do eventually come around, they still fit in a movie that zigs and zags around being conventional and above all else, stays thrilling.

Which is to say that Good Time is a “fun” movie, but not in the way you’d expect.

It’s fast, fun, electrifying and, at certain points, downright crazy, but it does take its time to make sure that you’re along for the ride, too. It would have been perfectly easy for the Safdie’s to just make everything up as they went along, throwing ridiculous obstacle, over another, with reckless abandon, and never making it seem like our protagonist will reach his goal, or even survive the night, but they keep it close and contained. It helps us pulsate along with the thrill-ride, but also grow closer to this character who, despite not being the smartest or nicest guy around, is still damn compelling to watch.

R-Pats with blonde hair just doesn’t do it for the ladies. Take note.

And yes, people, that has to do with Robert Pattinson and is his great performance here. Sure, he’s been good before and clearly tried to do whatever he could to get away from the Twilight spotlight, but often times, those roles felt a little on-the-nose and, unfortunately, weakly-written. In Good Time, Pattinson totally changes how we look at him, with shaggy hair, tons of facial-hair, and the look that makes you think he hasn’t showered in a few weeks and it’s a breath-taking performance. He’s constantly on his feet, thinking of what the next best move is, and while it’s not entirely smart, you still sort of believe and understand it, making this sometimes intense character, seem grounded in a state of reality.

He isn’t, but who would want to be?

Anyway, Pattinson is great here, but really, it’s Buddy Duress who steals the show. It’s hard to say too much about his role, or how he enters the movie, but just know that when Duress enters the movie, the tempo changes. Hell, everything changes. It’s all of a sudden a lot more funny, silly, dark, and damn violent, which makes it feel like this movie’s going somewhere we truly haven’t seen before, even if it has been done before.

Good Time is the kind of movie that doesn’t feel like its re-inventing the wheel by any means, but by never letting up on the tension and always seeming one step ahead of us, it’s one of the more exhilarating pieces of film I’ve seen this year. It gives me hope for not just Pattinson, for the Safdie’s, or for indie-cinema, as a whole. But film, in general.

Let’s hope that film doesn’t let me down.

Consensus: Fast, fun, zippy, crazy, and anchored by an amazing lead performance from Pattinson, shedding his hunky looks, Good Time is just that, if not more.

9 / 10

Running from all the Twi-hards.

Photos Courtesy of: A24

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Heaven Knows What (2015)

Kids, for the millenials.

After she commits suicide because the love of her life, Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), doesn’t return the same feelings she has for him, Harley (Arielle Holmes) slices her own wrists and ends up in a rehab clinic. Eventually, she gets out and is supposed to be all clean, new, and fresh; however, what happens is basically the same old, same old. Harley turns back to the world of drugs, where she’s constantly trying to get by on scamming people, day in and day out, all just to get whichever heroin she can find next for the right price. She’s not alone in this seedy underworld as Mike (Buddy Duress), a drug-dealer and sometimes guy-she-hooks-up-with, has something of a partnership with Harley in getting as much money as they can so that they can pay their rent, get the drugs, get high, and continue into the same pattern the next day, and the day after that, and so on and so forth. But what keeps Harley alive and well is the fact that she still loves Ilya, even if he could care less about her. Because, to her, Ilya is the one she wants to spend the rest of her life, whether he wants to or not, and that causes a lot of problems once Mike and Ilya start feuding over most things teenage heroin-addicts feud over.

Take a long one, honey. You need it.

Take a long one, honey. You need it.

A lot of people may hate Heaven Knows What for solely being about, well, heroin addicts. Young heroin addicts, to be specific, but heroin addicts nonetheless who, really don’t have much to do with their lives. Their days, for the most part, consist of hustling whoever they can hustle, doing whatever it takes, and losing all sorts of self-respect, just so that they can have that next, wonderful, beautiful, and amazing high that they’ve been fighting for since the second they woke up. That’s basically it and you know what?

It’s hard to ever take your eyes off of.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we hardly ever see these kinds of stories/characters told and given to us on the big screen. And even when they are, they’re usually done so in a way that’s preachy, obvious and judgmental; here, the smart thing that the Safdie brothers do is that they don’t ever, not for a second, make it seem like they’re judging these characters for who they are, what they’re doing, and the naughty ideas they’ve got in their heads. The Safdie’s see these characters for all that they are and because of that, the movie itself takes a back-seat to what it is that these characters are up to.

And sure, while it may not seem like they’re not doing much of anything at all (except just getting high), there’s still something incredibly compelling that makes the events all the more interesting. Sometimes, they’ll be in the park, or on the streets, or in a McDonald’s, just generally acting like a bunch of hooligans, causing all sorts of shenanigans, and not giving a single turd about who it is that they’re bothering, offending, or pissing-off-to-high-heaven – they’re high and living life, so why should they?

In a way, Heaven Knows What feels like a documentary that the Safdie’s just got very lucky in being able to film. There are certain moments that are staged (and they’re the weakest), but honestly, there’s plenty of scenes here that make it seem like the Safdie’s just told their actors to go out there, do whatever it is that they wanted to, and not stop until they said, “cut”. Though it’s never clear just how much is made up on the spot, or actual, genuine dialogue written for those moments in particular, there’s no denying the fact that whatever’s going on here, it’s working. It could have easily been another one of those micro-budget, grit-pieces from first-time directors that are just about as meandering as a Joe Swanberg piece (early Swanberg, that is), but surprisingly and thankfully, it doesn’t turn out that way one bit.

And even if it does, so what?

Heroin chic?

Heroin chic?

These characters, literally, live each and every one of their days, meandering along the dirty, raunchy streets, having no clue of what they’re going to do, when they’re going to do anything, or where the hell they’re going to end up at by the day’s end. All they do know is that, well, they’re going to high as hell, yo. Because of that, the fact that the movie feels like there’s almost no direction behind it whatsoever, works perfectly; these characters clearly have no directions in life, so why should they have any direction anywhere else!

And like I said before, the movie doesn’t try to make any of these characters into saint-like figures that are clearly better and made for more than what they’re surrounded by. Of course, that’s implied, seeing as how they’re all young, aspiring and street smart kids, but the movie never makes any one person out like they’re the nice people of the group and therefore, should be seen as such. Granted, nobody here is really considered a sinner, either – there’s just people who are a lot more morally reprehensible than others.

The only one who doesn’t seem to be is Arielle Holmes as, Harley, who is basically just a semi-fictionalized version of her own self. You’d think that because Holmes wrote this, that her character would get the lovely and sympathetic treatment, but gratefully, that doesn’t happen. She is just as worse than the company she keeps, but she’s also one that seems like she’s got more of a head on her shoulders, as well as a heart in her chest.

Of course, she’s also always seeming to get a needle in her arm, too, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Consensus: Gritty, dark, disturbing, and ugly, but in all the right ways, Heaven Knows What doesn’t settle for any sort of narrative and instead, gives us a compelling portrait of people’s lives we don’t usually see in movies nowadays, as sad as they may be.

8 / 10

See? The heroin world isn't all that bad! Cuddling's allowed!

See? The heroin world isn’t all that bad! Cuddling’s allowed!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire