The John Turturro and Riz Ahmed starrer-The Night Of is a miniseries that was aired over eight weeks in the past two months, receiving considerable discussion and praise. Here’s my two cents.
IMDb synopsis :
After a night of partying with a female stranger, a man wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder.
The series was to star the late James Gandolfini as John Stone, the lawyer who takes up Naz’s case. With his untimely death, John Turturro was cast in the role. Stone is an eczema-riddled, plea-bargaining lawyer with ads on the subway and generally represents lowlifes. Naz is the typical Asian-kid-in-the-US, bright and all. The other notable cast members – Naz’s attorney Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan), DA Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin), Det. Box (Bill Camp), Naz’s fellow jail inmate and mentor Freddy (Michael K.Williams), father Salim Khan (Payman Moaadi) and mother Safar Khan (Poorna Jagannathan) all perform amazingly.
Indian fans will recognise Ms. Jagannathan from the 2011 film Delhi Belly. Payman Moaadi made his name with the Oscar-winning Iranian film “A Separation.” Amara Karan is a British actor of Sri Lankan descent who plays an Indian-American here, nailing the accent and her part flawlessly.
- What I particularly liked about the series, and this is what its focus is methinks, that it shows the ways in which a criminal trial affects everyone concerned. Naz’s parents, being of Pakistani origin, face hatred and persecution (plus bankruptcy). Naz is transformed from the wide-eyed and timid collegian to a hardened undertrial. Chandra, an inexperienced criminal lawyer, earns her stripes through the case. But the main guy is Stone. John Turturro lends him the required gravitas/vulnerability/tenacity/ lightheartedness as the situation needs. His relationship with the murder victim’s cat is tender too.
- The pace of the series is languid but that does little to alleviate or defuse the sense of dread and tension seeping through every frame. Speaking of frames, the cinematography is top-notch. There are a lot of blur-and-focus shots (macros?) and at a lot of points, the camera works in a way that lends itself to different interpretations, like in the second episode when Det. Box talks to Naz from across his holding cell and the camera seems to show him to be the one jailed instead of the other way round. The background score is top-notch too.
- Special mention must be made of Richard Price and Steve Zaillian, the creators and writers of the show. The 2008 BBC series Criminal Justice has been adapted into a quintessentially American experience. Mr. Zaillian also directed 7 of the 8 episodes. Criminal Justice’s creator Peter Moffat (of Sherlock and Doctor Who fame) and Mr. Gandolfini have executive producer credits, the latter of which is especially nice to see.
- I quite liked the fact that a primetime American show has two Asian-American characters as leads, plus a couple others who have significant roles. Amid all the #whitewash controversy in recent years, this is an encouraging development and one which will, no doubt, help bring more non-stereotypical stories featuring Asians to the screen.
- The pilot is 75 minutes long and the finale is 1:35 hours long, feature-length in itself. The rest of the episodes are all an hour long.
- Caution – The series has some violence, drug use and strong language so its not for family viewing. I think an HBO crime show made that clear already, no?
Verdict : This is seriously good television which, despite a normal premise, does enough to hook you and not let go. Here’s the trailer :
Have you watched the show? Let’s discuss views and reviews in the comments section.
All images courtesy : HBO
Thanks for reading.