THE NIGHT OF
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HBO’S legal thriller has caused a real buzz but does it live up to the hype?
HBO’S The Night Of was one of the most talked about shows of 2016. Improbably, the series is a US remake of a 2008 BBC drama, Criminal Justice, written by Peter Moffat. The action has been moved to New York City, but it’s heartening to see British breakout star Riz Ahmed ( Rogue One, Jason Bourne) in the lead role of Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan, an easygoing student who is suspected of murder.
Naz’s fate seems to have been sealed the moment he secretly borrows his father’s taxi for a night on the town. When a young woman, Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-d’elia), gets into the cab, he accepts the fare. One thing leads to another and they end up at her Upper West Side brownstone, high on drugs and booze, playing with knives and having sex. When Naz awakes, he discovers that she’s been brutally stabbed to death in the bed. In a blind panic, he flees the scene, taking a bloody knife which may incriminate him.
The bravura opening episode crackles with tension, as Naz is pulled over for a traffic violation, ends up in the police station and is inches away from freedom. Unfortunately, wily detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) then realises that the prime murder suspect has fallen into his lap. It looks bad for Naz, but world- weary defence attorney John Stone (John Turturro) takes on his seemingly hopeless case.
Turturro gives a commanding performance as the eccentric lawyer who could have been a contender. Divorced and lonely, Stone’s been reduced to grubby plea bargain cases and is afflicted by eczema.
While Stone searches for angles, The Night Of introduces a violent prison storyline, as Naz enters Rikers Island on remand. Taken under the wing of former boxer Freddy Knight (Michael Kenneth Williams), the nerdy student is transformed into a pumped-up prisoner. You even begin to doubt his innocence...
The Night Of is an exploration of the American criminal justice system that never sacrifices storytelling for a preachy agenda. In addition to portraying the racial ramifications of Naz Khan’s case for New York City as a whole, it’s a nuanced legal thriller that builds over eight immaculate episodes to an affecting finale which marked it as one of the year’s most memorable TV experiences.
British starriz Ahmed shines in this successful US adaptation of the BBC series Criminal Justice.