Jun 27, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
From the very moment that the haunting, hypnotic theme music came on the screen and the name of the Oscar winning screenwriter, Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York), emerged it was evident that this series would be binge-worthy. WOW! This eight-episode drama is not just a police procedural. It is that but it is so much more. It is a deep, not always pleasant exploration of out criminal justice system and of American racism.
John Stone (John Tuturro) is a bottom feeder, a sleazy lawyer. As a precinct predator he trolls for an easy buck defending drug dealers and petty criminals. One of the prostitutes he represents is his client as he is hers. Divorced and suffering from debilitating allergies, the worst of which is a maddeningly drug resistant foot rash, Stone is a disheveled mess. But, he knows the cops. He knows the urban landscape, the mean streets. One night a young Pakistani-American, Muslim is brought in on a murder charge. His name is Nasir (Riz Ahmed). From all outward appearances he is a clean-cut college kid. He had been tutoring a hot shot athlete and is flattered when he is invited to a party in Manhattan. When his ride flakes out and desperate to be included in the “in” crowd, he impulsively appropriates his father’s taxi. While stopped, a beautiful young girl jumps into his back seat. With fishnet stockings and a black jacket and skirt she is goth, definitely counter-culture. She is appealing and he likes her. The party is soon forgotten and she takes him to her upscale digs and they indulge in a wild night of pill-popping and dangerous foreplay. When he awakes from a drug-induced stupor, she is dead having been stabbed twenty-two times. He panics, grabs the murder weapon and runs. Did he commit the crime? The anxiety created by this scene is palpable. Nasir is arrested and sent to Riker’s Island where naughty boys and hardened criminals mingle. He picks up some bad habits. The culminating episodes feature the trial where Stone has been relegated to second chair to a female underling of a hot-shot attorney who, looking for publicity, had pushed him aside.
The late, great James Gandolfini is listed as executive producer and was originally slated to be the protagonist.Robert DeNiro was also briefly attached but had scheduling conflicts. Of these three Italian actors probably John Tuturro has just the right amount of maniacal energy to portray John Stone’s repulsive/compelling personality.
The brilliance is in the details: the relentless, insistent itching of the rash and the unlikely bonding of Stone and the victim’s cat. It is possible to watch the first episode on line (hbo.com/watch-free-episodes/the-night-of). Season 2 is in the works.