Nightride review – a lean, taut, one-take gangster thriller

Moe Dunford shines in Stephen Fingleton’s well-constructed Belfast-set drug-deal drama that, though not perfect, has craftsmanship and brio in abundance

First-time screenwriter Ben Conway has put together an interesting Belfast crime thriller, which pans out in a single, unbroken 97-minute take in real time, about a drug dealer doing one last catastrophic deal. Stephen Fingleton, who made an impression with his own 2015 debut The Survivalist, directs it with some elan.

Most of the film is a single, locked-off shot of a guy at the wheel of his car, talking tensely to people via a hands-free mobile while his life terrifyingly unravels. This owes quite a bit to Steven Knight’s lo-fi 2014 classic Locke, starring Tom Hardy doing very much the same thing. Moe Dunford (from Paddy Breathnach’s homelessness drama Rosie) plays Budge: a tough drug dealer looking for the traditional final big score to get him out of this filthy trade so he can set up an honest bodyshop repair business with a mate. Without any camera cut, we watch Budge as he drives around barking instructions through his mobile phone: the plan is that he borrows €100,000 in cash from a well-known psychopath called Joe (Stephen Rea), one of many people that we just hear on the mobile; Budge plans to use this to buy some cocaine from Ukrainian gangsters (his girlfriend is Ukrainian) who need to unload it right now and get out of the country quickly; then he will sell these drugs to his contact for €200,000, pay Joe back plus €20,000 interest, which will leave him with enough left over to bring to the bank the next morning to set up this auto-repair business. And all in an hour and a half!

Of course, it goes horribly pear-shaped. There’s a propulsive, driving force to the way the film is directed, but there are some things that don’t entirely track: his putative garage business associate – stunned and horrified by what Budge is getting dragged into – is fulfilling the plot function of a spouse or romantic partner, and I wonder if it’s plausible that a drug dealer of Budge’s prominence thinks he can just quit and become a civilian in the same city. Well, there’s some style to it.

• Nightride is released on 4 March on Netflix.