After Game of Thrones, I really couldn’t last too long without seeing that famous fizz of static that brings about a new episode of HBO TV. I needed something pretty fast. Thankfully it came in the shape of HBO’s The Night Of, which premiered in Australia over the weekend.
The Night Of is an eight-part limited series that delves into the intricate story of bright young student Naz, played by Riz Ahmed (Soon to be a lead in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). After a night of partying with a female stranger, he wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder. Jack Stone, played by John Turturro (O Brother, Where Art Thou), is a small time lawyer whi picks up seemingly low life clients from the local prison house. Jack is pulled into Naz’s case purely by coincidence and luck. Detective Dennis Box leads the case and is played by Bill Camp (12 Years A Slave, Black Mass). The first episode and series seems to want to play on all our insecurities about crime, race, and the justice system.
Although I was a bit hesitant to start another crime drama so soon after the intensity that was Thirteen (you’ll read about this soon), I could not pass up another opportunity to spend some time alongside John Turturro in a role that was meant to be for the late James Gandolfini (who remains an Executive Producer) and a show created by writers Richard Price (Ransom) and Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).
I usually write as I watch a show for my review purposes. I take notes, fill my little notepad, sip on my coffee. This time however, I found myself putting my pen down, leaving my coffee to get cold and being sucked into every single shot and scene. The way in which poor Naz finds himself further and further thrust into a nightmare that started off so beautifully mysterious is mesmerising.
It is not just what’s on the surface either. As we watch, we witness every single clue that would lead an investigation, all the way back to the start. The way the camera jerks slowly over a surveillance footage screen which follows Naz as he drives through a tunnel in Queens. The police that witness him driving a cab earlier in the night. A service station assistant, a witness driving a funeral car, the parking ticket picked up off Naz’s car. It is so finely directed that I do not think I missed a single beat. It cleverly guides you through what normally could be a very large set of intricate scenes.
As the first episode of the series ends, Jack takes on his client and finds out that the highly professional Dennis Box is the lead Detective. He looks up, wide-eyed, shocked, and as only Turturro could, reassesses the situation in his mind, wondering what he has got himself into. Just as I think the same, he calmly states his doubts with one word: “Fuck”. This leaves exactly the right word on our minds as to how damn fine this show may turn out to be, how messed up the entire situation is and wondering where it is going to take us next. We will gladly let you all know as the series moves on.
Filmed in and around Manhattan, the HBO series is based on the BBC’s Criminal Justice, created by Peter Moffat.
The series airs in Australia not far behind the US on the Showcase channel, home of HBO with Foxtel, Sundays at 8:30pm.