Stephen Connolly gets in the passenger seat.

Stephen Fingleton has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with his sophomore feature Nightride, an intense, high-octane thriller shot in real time.

Just like his debut, The Survivalist, Nightride features the journey of a central male protagonist’s quest for survival with the ever-growing fatal consequences of failure lurking in the shadows.

This time we are not in a cabin in the wild with the Survivalist but in a car with Budge, played by the consistently impressive Moe Dunford, as he navigates the streets of Belfast in an attempt to pull off a drug deal over the phone abetted by a cast of money-lenders, gangsters, dealers, sellers, his business associate, plus his partner and cousin. This “one last deal” is Budge’s opportunity to get out of the game and leave a life of crime behind him.

So… Budge sets off to borrow 100k in cash from Joe – a nutjob, obviously, and pops around the corner to exchange the cash for some cheap cocaine from some Ukrainian gangsters. From there, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to a buyer who will give him 200k. Leaving Budge in funkytown, paying back nutjob Joe 120k (bloody loan sharks and their shocking interest rates) and Hey Presto, Budge will pocket the change to set-up a legit auto-repair business and live a life on the straight and narrow with his partner.

What could possibly go wrong?

The film sells itself on being crafted as a 95-minute single take and while technically impressive, it lives and dies on its ability to tell a story first and foremost. Thankfully, it does. With a script from Ben Conway, Nightride fires enough shots and packs some powerful punches across its tightly focused runtime to raise pulses and heart rates.

Conway’s story and script wears its influences proudly on its sleeves, sometimes maybe a little bit too much –  at one stage Budge is riffing on Michael Mann in a Pulp Fiction style casual car conversation. Also the narrative does suffer from some clunky twists and turns and trips over itself to make sure everything fits into place. But there’s no denying the vigour of the script, the craft of the filmmaking and the strength of the central performance to push things along at just the right pace to keep the viewer on the edge of their passenger seats.

Dunford plays Budge well as a man doing his best to stay in control while everything around him crumbles. He barks orders and desperately tries to navigate a tightrope while gusts of wind pick up around him. He takes it up a notch when he’s involved in calls to his partner, played by Joana Ribeiro, and his cousin, played by Ellie O’Halloran, both of whom over the course of the film allow Dunford room to show his acting chops and display a vulnerability behind the fragile coolness he has to perform in order to succeed in the criminal underworld.

There’s a deft original score by Phil Kieran and hats off to a crew that had to be on top of their game working in situations that were beyond their full control and successfully deliver a polished product.

Stylish, but a few nuts and bolts short of a solid chassis. 

Nightride screened on 28th February 2022 at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.

Nightride is released on Netflix UK & Ireland as a Netflix Original movie on 4th March 4th 2022. 


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