Parents' Guide to

Night Walk

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Depressing prison drama is violent, with cursing and slurs.

Movie R 2019 97 minutes
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This is a depressing prison drama in which any potential positive messages are drowned out by the violence and cruelty. In Night Walk, a man wrongly imprisoned for his girlfriend's murder in an Arab country is sent to a California penitentiary, avoids the overtures of the racist leader of the White inmates (played by Mickey Rourke), and converts to the Muslim faith while inspired by the spiritually centered life of his cellmate -- but he also wants to use the Muslims' connections to the outside world to get revenge on the corrupt judge (played by Eric Roberts) who found Frank guilty of the murder of his girlfriend and who also was behind the killing of one of Frank's best friends, an investigative journalist hot on the trail of the judge's corruption. If the story sounds a bit unwieldy and overly complicated, that's because it is, and that doesn't even include the backstory of the bullying and vicious prison guard, among two or three other story threads piled on top of the main story.

The movie is marred by clunky storytelling, by acting that runs the gamut from very good to just plain awful, with not a lot in between, and by dialogue that is sometimes unintentionally hilarious. However, the brief humor of weak dialogue like "Oh my god! Call an ambulance!" after a man has been shot with an assault rifle less than five feet from the character half-heartedly bellowing this line doesn't overcome what is ultimately a gloomy story. There's only one faint glimmer of hope and redemption at the end, but it doesn't overcome the movie's structural shortcomings, uneven acting, and constant cruelty. It's unfortunate, because there does seem to be a positive message somewhere in Night Walk, but it doesn't really have a chance to emerge from the bleak shadow cast by prison life, injustice, and misfortune.

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