A box office behemoth in its homeland and a daring breakthrough for its 30-year-old director Saeed Roustayi, this visceral policer tackles the maelstrom of Iran’s war on drugs through propulsive action and real political bite.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
Opening at breakneck pace as a police officer chases a suspect on foot through the back alleys of Tehran, Just 6.5 crackles with relentless intensity. Iran’s exploding drug use – in this case, its epidemic of crack addiction – forms the backdrop to this riveting blend of police procedural and gripping bureaucratic thriller, following the efforts of a handful of cops to bust their way up the drug hierarchy.
As irascible a bunch as you’ll see on screen anywhere, the investigators are nominally led by Samad (A Separation’s Peyman Maadi), who has to overcome his own challenges amid the police bureaucracy even as he catches, cajoles and loudly threatens his quarry. Samad and his colleagues arrest and flip their way from user to dealer to courier in search of an elusive kingpin, with Just 6.5 – somewhat sarcastically named after Iran’s 6.5 million addicts – earning comparisons to classics like The French Connection and offering unique insights into the specifics of Iran’s police and justice system. Familiar genre beats are skillfully handled as cops and crims vie for supremacy in grotesquely overcrowded jail cells, and in cat-and-mouse encounters as thrilling as the busts setting them in motion. — Steve Newall
“In Tehran, getting caught with 30 grams of illegal drugs carries the same sentence as being busted with 50 kilos. Either way, perps face the death penalty – which means the dealers might as well get ambitious. And so they have, driving up the rates of Iranian drug abuse from roughly one million addicts to somewhere in the ballpark of 6.5 million. Still, if it weren’t for such draconian punishments – and the dedication of the Anti-Narcotics Police Task Force who enforce them – the number would be much higher, which explains the title of director Saeed Roustayi’s Just 6.5, a… ripped-from-reality thriller that delivers a searing look at a serious problem… Like Iranian master Asghar Farhadi… Roustayi blends the best of Eastern and Western cinematic traditions. The result… is a run-and-gun, Hollywood-caliber cop movie grounded by a clear-eyed assessment of how Tehran’s system works, and all the ways in which it doesn’t.” — Peter Debruge, Variety
About the Filmmaker
Saeed Roustayi is a graduate of filmmaking from Soureh Film College. His debut feature film, Life and A Day (2016), won nine main awards at Tehran’s Fajr Film Festival, as well as accolades from the Iranian Film Awards and Iranian Film Critics ceremonies. Selected filmography: Life and A Day (2016), The Light-Colored Manteaux (2012).