Telling its story out of order does nothing for the undercover cop investigating the Birmingham drug trade thriller “Bluff.”
This indifferent cop-embeds-with-junkies-and-drug dealers tale is already saddled with colorless performances, banal dialogue, low energy villains and an overfamiliar story arc.
Forcing one to figure out why this character’s hairstyle keeps shifting and that junkie seems to have “outed” the “suspended from the force” London copper in the first act is pointless, waters down any hope of suspense and needlessly slows down an unthrilling thriller to a funereal crawl.
It wasn’t working on set (coffee might have awakened the narcoleptic cast), and shuffling scenes about doesn’t fix anything.
Gurj Gill plays our droning-on voice-over narrating hero, Det. Sgt. Daniel Miller, whom we see cashiered out of uniform, and then met by the lone superior (James Jaysen Bryhan) who will be his contact as he moves out of town to “become one of the invisible addicts that people walk past every day.”
How does one do that? Look around for somebody with the right, semi-staggered gait of a heroin/crack (speedball) addict trying to pass for “straight.” sit on a park bench and offer him a smoke. Ask about gear, offer to “pay for yours, too.”
Just like that, Danny is in with “Cooks” (Jason Adam), on his way to Shots, the dealer and set to work his way up to local kingpin Imran (Nisaro Karim) and maybe beyond.
The officer in charge tries to halt the investigation because of what it’s doing to his undercover man, but we have no sense that drug abuse and doing the drug trafficker’s bidding is giving Danny anything over than a more groomed (shorter haired) look the longer he’s in.
Danny’s declaration that he’s not letting the operation end, “not after everything I’ve been through, all I’ve sacrificed” breaks protocol and has zero conviction, the way it’s played here.
First-time feature director Sheikh Shahnawaz properly populates his seedy underworld and deglamorizes the lifestyle. Cooks is homeless, curled up in what looks like an abandoned parking garage.
Shahnawaz underpopulates his picture, and leaves women out of it almost completely.
But the real issue with it is that everything about this robs it of pace. The way the scenes are written — little or long anecdotes that begin with “You see Danny, I was an only child” and don’t improve the longer they go on — actors who take their sweet time working up to the point of a scene — editing that captures dead time between words, reactions and a narrative with little urgency and almost no forward motion make “Bluff” an almost interminable movie to sit through.
Rating: unrated, violence, drug abuse, profanity
Cast: Gurj Gill, Jason Adam, Nisaro Karim, James Jaysen Bryhan and Joe Egan
Credits: Scripted and directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz. An Indie Rights release.
Running time: 1:54