Nightride: One-last-job yarn set in Belfast splutters over the line

Moe Dunford impresses in a thriller that just manages to keep its real-time gimmick going

Nightride
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Director: Stephen Fingleton
Cert: Club
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Moe Dunford, Joana Ribeiro, Gerard Jordan, Ciaran Flynn, John Travers, Stephen Rea
Runing Time: 1 hr 37 mins

Early on in Stephen Fingleton's one-last-job thriller, the protagonist and a disreputable associate bond over an affection for the films of Michael Mann. It is that director's Miami Vice, of all things, that ends up providing the film with a leitmotif, but the real touchstone here is surely 2004's Collateral (and not just because that word appears often in Ben Conway's screenplay). Moe Dunford, our most reliable soft-centred hard nut, has never been better than as Budge, a dodgy geezer trying to arrange a final drug deal before he retires to run a garage. Jamie Foxx drove the nocturnal streets of Los Angeles. Dunford cruises about a sleeping Belfast. We don't see any coyotes. But we do catch sight of Titanic Belfast and Harland & Wolff.

The gimmick is that we are back in one-shot territory. It's been two months since the excellent Boiling Point – in which Stephen Graham cooked without cuts – so we are probably due another unbroken drama. Nightride again shows the attractions and the constrictions of the form. The indisputable zing of real-time action adds tension to Budge's desperate attempt to keep the deal afloat after incompetent accomplices lose the merchandise. But, as with so many films made in this fashion – even making allowances for genre – far too much happens in far too short a time. Remote players appear to move about the city faster than one could manage in a Tardis. There is barely a moment to take a breath.

Fingleton, director of the excellent The Survivalist, is saddled with another challenge here. Like at least two films by Abbas Kiarostami, Nightride takes place almost entirely within the hero's car. This obviously tidies away some of the logistical difficulties, but it means that the audience is asked to listen to a very large number of hands-free phone calls. No film has provided so many instances of the weird movie convention that has characters hang up without saying goodbye.

Happily, the screenplay is a model of design and economy. The dilemmas remain clear. The solutions mostly make sense. It also helps that there is strong vocal work from the likes of Desmond Eastwood and an unprecedentedly gruff Stephen Rea.

Nightride just about splutters over the line with its integrity intact.

On Netflix from March 4th