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VOD Review: Nightride

March 3, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Early on in director Stephen Fingleton’s Nightride, a new single take thriller shot in Belfast, two characters discuss Michael Mann movies. One character says Miami Vice is his favourite. The other scoffs slightly. Is he more of a Heat man? No, Mann’s debut Thief is his personal favourite. The other concedes that its a great film, and the “template for his archetype of the lonely professional criminal.”

It’s a cheeky reference to a filmmaker who is clearly a big influence behind Nightride, with its gritty nighttime setting and pulsating synth score. But, in terms of presentation, Fingleton’s film also recalls elements of the 2015 German one-take wonder Victoria and the Tom Hardy in a car movie Locke.

In fact, like that 2014 Hardy vehicle, much of Nightride unfolds with our drug dealer protagonist Budge (Moe Dunford) behind the wheel of his car, the camera locked on his hood peering into the windshield as he drives around the city frantically making phone calls. But Nightride also has an energy all its own. It’s a testament to Dunford’s performance and Fingleton’s filmmaking choices that the film is able to build as much tension as it does, playing out at a taut 97 minutes captured in one seemingly unbroken shot.

Budge is in the process of pulling off that stereotypical “one last job” before getting out for good. The scheme involves a van carrying 50k in product from Ukrainian drug dealers that he purchased using borrowed money, which he will unload to his own buyer for two hundred grand, and use the cash he has left over to go clean and open an auto shop. But things don’t go according to plan. He thinks he has a tail, gets his buddies involved, and the van gets lost, leaving him scrambling to track it down so he can make the sale and pay off his debt by midnight.

While the basic storyline treads familiar ground, the inventive one-shot execution of Nightride makes it enjoyable and exciting to watch. The low-budget film is impressive purely from a logistical standpoint, with the camera swivelling around at key moments to show Budge’s perspective, and being taken off the hood to get closer to the action when he exits the vehicle. When the car got pulled over by real life cops during filming, Dunford didn’t break character and they kept the camera rolling so they wouldn’t have to restart the entire shoot, with the scene being ingeniously woven into the final movie.

The single take approach is always fun to watch when it’s pulled off well, and Nightride succeeds at offering a satisfying entry into the canon. The script by first time screenwriter Ben Conway has some crackling dialogue, maintaining interest despite most of the interactions happening with Budge alone in his car conversing over the phone with voices that are kept off-screen. Dunford capably carries the film with a performance of increasing intensity. This is only Fingleton’s second feature following 2015’s The Survivalist, and it serves as one heck of a cool and confident calling card for the filmmaker.

Nightride will be available on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms as of March 4th. It’s being distributed in Canada by Vortex Media.

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