It is the season of journalists in south Indian cinema. After Naaradan (Malayalam) and Maaran (Tamil) where the media was part of the central conflict, comes Night Drive, directed by Vysakh, where one of the protagonists is a star journalist who brings down a vile, powerful politician. Unlike Naaradan, a critique of the new TRP-oriented media business, Maaran and Night Drive idolise the journalist, cutting themselves off reality.
Consider the opening scene of Night Drive. After offering a customary bird’s-eye view of Kochi, the camera swoops into the office of Manorama News, where Riya (Anna Ben) works as a reporter and news presenter. The clumsy expository dialogue informs the viewer that Riya has been instrumental in exposing the role of a powerful minister (Siddique) in a gold smuggling case, eerily reminiscent of a recent sensational case in Kerala. The film isn’t interested in the details of the case or how Riya managed to break the news. Her heroism is purely a product of shallow dialogue.
Riya is an utterly dull construct, someone who reeks of arrogance and self-righteousness. Anna Ben is at her weakest here, utterly charmless and forgettable, giving the viewer nothing to hold on to. The film tries to balance her out by granting her a subdued male partner, Georgie (Roshan Mathew), a taxi driver, who, until the final leg of the film, hides from the audience his heroic masculinity. On the wee hours of her birthday, they go on a long drive, through sub-urban Kochi. When a police team on night patrol stops their vehicle for a routine search, Riya protests for various reasons, leading to a feud between her and inspector Benny Mooppan (Indrajith Sukumaran).
This extended sequence is pivotal in the narrative, affecting everything that ensues that night. But it’s hard to ignore how contrived the proceeding is. The drama and the tension that builds up aren’t organic but weakly constructed. The argument between Riya and Benny could make one enraged, not because of the ethical breach the policeman commits or the utter lack of etiquette in Riya’s conduct, but because of its affectedness. It is an easy guess that the couple would run into Benny again that night and he would have his revenge.
Vysakh, in his most unusual outing in years, tries to insert some hipness into the narrative. One of Georgie’s closest friends, a jolly-good-fellow, is a gender-neutral person who queues up for alcohol in front of a government outlet and helps the couple escape the villains. A fair attempt. But apart from such tokenisms, the film is a farce, an outdated work that reiterates that women, no matter how strong they are in public, needs to be protected by a man.
Roshan Mathews, a proven talent, gets a mainstream action hero moment, which he pulls off with aplomb. But there is only so much an actor can do in a film like Night Drive. Indrajith brings a lot of charisma to Benny Mooppan, an otherwise plain character ridden with cliches.
The film ends in a familiar moment, in a familiar space ﹣a garage with asbestos walls. The cat-and-mouse chase between the couple and the villains that lead to this climactic showdown is flawed. The couple easily and implausibly outsmarts the minister and his men. In the laughably bad final act, the background score is switched to the loudest, in an attempt to hatch some drama that is non-existent in the screenplay. The trio, Riya, Georgie and Benny, laugh triumphantly as the villains tremble in fear. But there is hardly any thrill in the scene to respond to.
Night Drive pretends to be smarter and more sensitive than the blockbusters Vysakh directed in the past, but in essence, it is just an insincere work that begs to be taken seriously, that reduces a complex and controversial real incident into a bunch of cliches.
This Night Drive review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.