Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Q&A" (1990) - Movie Review

“Q&A” is a film beginning with an assumption on conscience and then getting plot oriented and end it to summate that through the voice over of the young Assistant District Attorney Al (Timothy Hutton). Directed by Sidney Lumet it is a story built on brick by brick with one element after another never siding for compromise and in tandem with the film’s screenplay. The series “Law and Order” has taken the whole section of the court drama genre in to television from the film industry but “Q&A” in 1990 was well before that and yet it would still stand out as a film than a conclusion of series in days of now.

There is something fishy about hero worship in Hollywood cop drama. There is always dirt on every one. Particularly in the cops because of the past and righteousness the job imposes and comes along with it. It is the same with one’s philosophy of following the values, rules or whatever one defines their path. When a person of those principles walks with it amongst his/her family, friends, foes and relatives, the people who feel the guilt might thrive for some dirt on them. That is the trick to get them in the gang to forget the wrongness happening around them. Something like that in a much bigger stature in the league of suits and ties and straight shot whiskies is the law, its abiders, abusers, non-believers and the strict enforcers.

Lumet takes on the diversity in the myriads of racial subtleties in everyday life especially in the office of law. Detective Chappie (Charles S. Dutton) an African American and a Latin American Detective Valentin (Luis Guzman) use those racial epithets in an acknowledgment of their friendship. It goes a notch up with Chappie and Brennan (Nick Nolte). Brennan is a hard and rough cop shooting point blank on a man’s head when the film opens. Al is brought by the Chief of Homicide Quinn (Patrick O’Neal) to wrap this up as it is said as a self defense by Brennan. The Q&A is the official “on the record” of the investigation imprinted on documents by an old stenographer. The young and naïve ADA becomes an instant pet for the Brennan but he is tough too as he had been a cop like his father.

The story brings in the criminals and they oddly distinguish them with the cops. Both exist because of each other and that acknowledgment is almost resembles a code in a war. The back stabs, set ups, business, money, corruption runs wide in the underworld while smoothly in between the documents and cabinets in the office of the cops. The clean people are skipped off or if they are on their way they can always find dirt as mentioned earlier. This endless spiral becomes a tune unsung loudly but heard in hymns amongst the contrast between the drug lords and the police chiefs.

The opening scene reveals Nick Nolte shooting and proclaiming it as self defense. There is nothing suspenseful in it. We know that this young aspirant, hopeful and idealistic lawyer would uncover this and would learn the complex ethics in this dreaded mess of crime and punishment. But hold on, there is suspense in this and a good one. Al in the investigation brings in one of the drug kingpin Bobby Texador (Armand Assante). Bobby’s wife Nancy (Jenny Lumet) is Al’s ex. The director would have wasted distastefully on their secretive love but watch this, Al’s break up becomes the axis line for this film. It tells about us on the bodily reaction and the prejudices to wipe off the goodness and the values in one. We learn from Nancy that after two years of dating Al is suddenly introduced to Nancy’s father and he is an African American. And Al’s face is the reason for Nancy’s break up. If that is though as being harsh, think again. It split wide open in me on the possibility of such thing happening to any one. It scares that irrespective of some one being much open their face hardly lies and the sad part is they do not know it either. Deep inside it exists and you fight with it till you die.

Lumet has each character to have something in them to say about the smallest discomforts and its biggest impacts in the business of crime and law. A snitch and an important gay witness tells to Bobby about Brennan is gay not in a funny tone but means it for a reason so widely true. The loyalty to their partners in the force and the whole meaning of bringing the truth out appears a fairy tale. As a child, we are all taught upon the values of right and wrong. There was a flimsy book of moral story with a situation “cut and dried” as said by the chief to Al on it to demark the right and wrong in stories. There was no ambiguity in it and growing up the line gets rubbed off and redrawn. It gets redrawn on the perception of laziness, selfishness and the love for others. Soon there are so many lines that giving up becomes a great option. But it is not that the stories change, it is the infinite knowledge of the human psychology which shocks, surprises and saddens to say that there is no line but a clear presence of the content inside keeping you sane in the midst of it.

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