Writer-director Nasser Bakhti combs Geneva’s mean streets in “Night Shadows,” a serious but overwrought ensemble view of the affluent city’s social margins and the jittery cops who deal with it. Though the film casts a sober view on African immigrants, its contrived theatrics stifle what could have been a rewarding depiction of how have-nots actually exist among so many haves, while policier elements are undercooked. Modest worldwide fest travels and local biz could make Bakhti’s name a bit better known in preparation for his next film.
Vet cop Hans (Martin Huber) and his hot-tempered second (Gaspard Boesch) tackle the night beat, where they’re fated to cross paths with three unfortunates: Algerian-born Momo (Hicham Alhayat), whose loneliness spills over into violence; heroin addict Claire (Madeleine Piguet), desperate for a fix; aspiring Malian soccer player Ade (Diarra Damanta), illegally working in an Italian restaurant. Bakhti’s characters are never allowed to breathe, diagrammed as they are in a scenario that suffers from too much meandering and too many plot manipulations. Fine nighttime lensing lives up to the English title, though the French one is more poetically apt.