‘Nightride’ : Stephen Fingleton’s movie is indebted to a rich tradition of nocturnal

The movie is indebted to neon-lit crime thrillers set behind the wheel of an outlaw’s automobile, but it fails to deliver the goods.

Beginning with Walter Hill’s 1978 classic “The Driver” and continuing through Michael Mann’s 1981 heist flick “Thief” and Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 throwback “Drive.”

As if to make these connections even clearer, in an early scene a drug-dealing Ph.D. candidate called Scholar (Ciaran Flynn) is speaking to his supplier, Budge (Moe Dunford), and holding forth on the brilliance of Mann, who also directed the 2006 film “Miami Vice.” Scholar believes that “Miami Vice” is “the apex of Mann’s post-celluloid filmography.” But the Mann picture that “Nightride” most resembles is probably “Collateral,” which similarly concerns an all-night criminal odyssey and takes place primarily inside a car. Had Fingleton included a hacker as a character, we could have had a bit of “Blackhat,” too.

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The plot of “Nightride” is little more than an assembly of stock types: the crook trying to go clean (Dunford), the loan shark feared for his vicious reprisals (Stephen Rea), the well-meaning girlfriend who becomes endangered when the big score goes wrong (Joana Ribeiro). Its distinguishing feature is that the action unfolds in real time, in one (seemingly) continuous 90-minute take, as Budge, the drug-runner played by Dunford, cruises around Belfast trying to pull off one last job.

The one-take gimmick — much easier to achieve now thanks to digital cameras —has become common enough that it barely qualifies as novel, having been used in “Birdman,” “Victoria,” and “1917,” among many others. As in those movies, there is a kind of “Look, Ma, no hands!” bluster to this technique that smacks of needlessly showing off, calling attention to the aptitude of the filmmaker at the expense of the characters and the story. It’s worth noting that while Mann’s crime films are aesthetically sumptuous, the images are always in service of the ideas — not the other way around.

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