#OnReview – Criminal Justice: Powerful Characters make it a good watch

You will find yourself thinking about it well after you finish watching it. This is the power of good acting.

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It’s a good thing that Hotstar isn’t branding its own content as ‘Hotstar Originals’ anymore. Because the streaming service’s second show, Criminal Justice, is far from original. Not only is it literally a remake of a remake – the ‘original’ UK Criminal Justice was adapted in America as The Night Of – but it is narratively similar to so many murder mysteries we’ve seen before, all in a good way.

Plot of the series

Aditya (Vikrant Massey) is good at football and bad at saying no to people. He helps his father and brother-in-law run a taxi service in Mumbai. A night on the road as a driver turns first into a trip to the unknown and then a direct descent to hell. Aditya wakes up to find his partner in a one-night stand murdered. Did he do it? Either way, will he be convicted?

Why is it a One Time Watch

It is because of the characters and the cast who justified the characters.
The show splits into two definitive halves — one follows the criminal trial of the incident, with two lawyers in focus (the hilariously good Pankaj Tripathi as Madhav Mishra, and Mita Vashisht), both of whom work to prove Aditya is innocent; the other follows Aditya’s journey in jail and how he transforms from a meek, lanky asthmatic kid into a Bulked-up Badass. Once Lawyer Madhav was caught up in exploiting loopholes in the legal system for his own benefit, while long-suppressed guilt is eating him up inside. Through Aditya’s case, Madhav finds a way to redeem and heal himself.

The character that retains an interest in Criminal Justice is Jackie Shroff, who plays Mustafa Bhai, a Godfather character in jail who seems to be the senior most and well respected. It’s always pleasing to see Jackie Shroff on screen, especially his unique brand of effortless acting. Here he brings his ‘Bhiduness’ to his performance and helps Aditya transform into someone you do not want to mess with.

Why it is just a one-time watch

Criminal Justice suffers from a lack of this exact newness in treatment and storytelling. Tigmanshu Dhulia, a director known for his interest in form, and Vishal Furia, don’t have a distinctive visual language. Some bits are direct throwbacks to scenes we have seen in films and TV serials: a prisoner hopelessly entering a jail, through a pathway lined on both sides by flailing hands and voices booing him. There are some gorgeously shot sequences, but some are also shockingly disappointing too.

Even though Criminal Justice is not a binge-able show (the pace is inconsistent and the cliff hangers foreseeable), you will find yourself thinking about it well after it is over. This is the power of good acting.

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