Saturday, 20 April 2019

TV Shows #18

The Night Of (2016)
Developed By: Richard Price & Steven Zaillian Starring: John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi, Poorna Jagannathan, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Afton Williamson, Ben Shenkman, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Sparks, Ned Eisenberg, Nabil Elouahabi, Michael Kenneth Williams, Glenne Headly, Amara Karan, Kirk 'Sticky Fingaz' Jones, Mohammad Bakri, Ashley Thomas, Paulo Costanzo, Chip Zien, Glenn Fleshler

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 56-96 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

Tagline: "What happened"

There have been several films and TV shows over the years that have dealt with the aftermath of an eventful night out (The Hangover being a fairly prominent recent example), but I can't imagine too many are as messed up, from the protagonist's perspective at least, as The Night Of. It's based on the first season of British drama, Criminal Justice, and is actually a miniseries rather than a new show proper, so this 'first season' is all there will be, but it's likely to be one that will stays with you long after the last of the eight one hour (on average) episodes has finished.

It stars Riz Ahmed as Nasir 'Naz' Khan, a Pakistani-American college student, and all he wants to do it go to a party. On the night of said soiree, his ride lets him down so he instead 'borrows' his father's taxi with the intention of driving himself there. Of course, idiotic people keep getting in his cab but he just keeps turfing them out. That is, until a young hotty with attitude plonks herself on his back seat.

The rebellious hotty in question is Andrea (Black-D'Elia) who invites Naz back to her place to 'party' (i.e. drink and/or drugs followed by casual sex). Upon waking during the night, however, Naz is shocked to find himself amidst a bloody mess and his host dead amongst it. He panics and flees the scene only to be pinched a short distance away for a traffic violation. While a guest back at the NYPD barn, the circumstances conspire against him and he soon finds himself a suspect in the brutal murder of Andrea who has now been discovered. It looks like a slam dunk to the fuzz who ship him off to Riker's Island to await trial for first degree murder. Witnessing the earlier events at the station, however, was John Stone, a defence attorney who takes an interest in Naz's case, but no one could win this case, surely?

All things considered, it's hard to see how any lawyer could mount a credible defence for Naz, nevermind someone like John Stone (Turturro). He is scruffy and plagued by unrelenting eczema that forces him to wear sandals everywhere, and as a result he is not taken seriously by cops at the station he trawls for potential clients. He is also not well regarded in legal circles and has never even tried a murder case before.

Still, someone in Naz's position is probably going to take any help he can get, even if that help does appear to be a bit of a bumbling oaf! Turturro is superb in the role too, with his performance possibly standing out more than any other, and that's saying something in this series. There aren't really any big names but everyone is fantastic. One of them is Bill Camp as Dennis Box, the detective in charge of the murder case in which Naz has been implicated, and he joins Turturro's world-weary attorney in finding something a little off with it, despite the overwhelming evidence. It's nice to see Amara Karan again too - I haven't seen her since The Darjeeling Limited! Here she's Chandra, a lawyer's assitant who gets involved in the case, and Michael K. Williams is convincing as Freddy Knight, the top dog in Riker's Island, but it is of course Ahmed who's centre stage here and he impresses enormously.

His transformation from the studious, slightly nerdy college kid we meet at the start to the tattooed, shaven-headed thug that prison turns him into is remarkable, not to mention rather ill-advised as far as his defence is concerned. It makes for a rivetting show though, and one whose outcome is not obvious. Shows don't always have the preditable, happy ends these days that they used to, and Nav's innocence or guilt is left deliberately ambiguous as well, so who knows how it might end?

The Night Of is quite similar to The Shawshank Redemption in that way actually. In both cases you just kind of assume without realising that the protaganist is innocent but he might not be. I guess that's a testament to the superb writing as well as the perfect pacing and outstanding performances that are on show here, which make for a truly fantastic show either way. At it's core it's just another American crime drama but there are so many different facets to the story. It gives us insights into the struggles of immigrant families in the US and highlights better than most shows the problems with the justice system and the effect of prison on pretty much anyone who's not a career criminal, but most of all it's simply a devastating example of how quickly and how badly things can change for the worse.

The Night Of might seem like a bit of a formulaic drama at first glance but it isn't long before you realise you're in for something special. Everything about it is top-notch, especially the gripping performances by the fantastic cast. It's not perfect of course, but it's not too far off. It's a shame it's only a one-off series but you'll definitely enjoy it while it lasts. One of the best shows I've seen in recent years.

RKS Score: 9/10

This is about the best trailer I can find but it's still not a very good one. Take my word for it though - this show is mighty fine :)


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