Law of Tehran: Movie
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Saeed Roustayi’s nerve-wracking drug police thriller, known for its record-breaking run as Iran’s top-earning non-comedy domestic film, is a standout offering from the same director who graced us with “Life and a Day” and the highly acclaimed 2022 Palme d’Or hopeful, “Leila’s Brothers”. “Law of Tehran” or “Just 6.5”, “متری شیش و نیم” the winner of the audience award at the 2019 Fajr film festival in Iran, deftly weaves an intense tapestry of tragedy and dark comedy.
Like the French Connection?
A testament to this is its frenetic drug raid opening sequence, which intertwines the realistic grit of “The French Connection” with the physical comedy of Buster Keaton.
Set against the backdrop of Tehran’s crippling drug addiction crisis, this festival darling feels more relevant today than when it was first released in Iran. Payman Maadi, the multifaceted Iranian American actor known for his role in “A Separation”, takes on the role of Samad, a police officer fighting a seemingly hopeless battle against drugs in the Iranian capital. Together with his partner Hamid (played by Houman Kiai), they undertake the inhumane treatment of a captured community of addicts, a stark reflection of the city’s grim reality.
What does Law of Tehran explore?
The film explores the blurred lines between law enforcement and criminality, with the central characters’ search for a notorious drug lord named Naser Khakzad (Navid Mohammadzadeh). This murky, often treacherous journey includes mismanagement of drug seizures and repeated questioning of their own lawfulness. It’s rare to find a film that portrays the blurry boundaries between cops and criminals with such vivid realism.
The film’s narrative extends from a home terrorized by a suspected dealer’s family to an airport where human bodies are employed to smuggle drugs, presenting an unvarnished view of this underworld. Despite the lavish surroundings of drug lord Khakzad, he eventually finds himself suffocating amongst the very victims of his trade. Roustayi masterfully balances the demonization of the villain and the isolation of Maadi’s determined cop.
The looming shadow of capital punishment pervades the film, a deterrent that paradoxically seems to amplify the number of dealers and addicts rather than curb it. The narrative implies a question – is the severity of the punishment part of the problem? When the stakes are this high, what is there left to lose?
Roustayi weaves a narrative riddled with broken families and lost children, adding to the sense of impending collapse. His skill in storytelling is evident as he subtly integrates these grim realities into an enthralling drama that leaves the moral judgment to the audience, presenting an unbiased view of a world where heroes are hard to define.