When New York Police Lieutenant Mike Brennan (Nick Nolte) shoots small-time crook Vasquez (Harry Madsen) in cold blood, he covers up the shooting as self-defence. Even though a transvestite stoolie (Paul Calderon) and gangster witnesses can implicate him, Brennan isn't worried. Chief of Homicide Kevin Quinn (Patrick O'Neal), is his protector. Quinn assigns a green assistant DA, Al Reilly (Timothy Hutton), to handle the Q&A -- the official record of the witness testimony. To Quinn, the case is simple: Vasquez was "vermin," Brennan is "the personification of the Finest," and Reilly, the son of a decorated Irish cop, is part of a proud tradition. Brennan may succeed in getting away with it, unless one surviving witness takes the stand: gangster, drug runner and racketeer, Bobby Texador (Armand Assante).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A city so used to racial antagonisms that deprecating epithets are the unremarkable norm, where tribes (in every sense) live in frictional proximity and constant tension ... this is Sidney Lumet's territory, and Q & A is another chapter in the Serpico-led movie franchise for which he can claim credit. A master of melodrama and of intricate, relationship driven stories, often fuelled by violence, Lumet reveals his social angst in his films. His is a New York at odds with Woody Allen's - albeit also filled with angst; where Allen dissects the middle class in the throes of its own insecurities, Lumet cruises the underbelly. It's a darned good screenplay, whatever the merits of the book on which it's based.
Some of the early scenes in the NYPD office where assistant DA, Al Reilly (Timothy Hutton) conducts the Q&A are reminiscent of Lumet's terrific one-room drama, 12 Angry Men (1957) in the way he stages a group of characters in a single room for maximum tension and maximum visual communication. The dialogue is one layer, but he provides another with the use of the camera.
Q & A is set in the ritualised, tribal reserve of the New York police force, where for most of the guys the enemy is everyone outside the brotherhood - no matter their criminal standing. Indeed, this is the point of the film, it is illegal only to be outside the pool. As an outsider, you are worthless and dispensable.
Nick Nolte oozes brutal enmity in a mesmerizing performance but he doesn't dominate screentime; Timothy Hutton is surprisingly good as the young DA, Armand Assante is brilliant and edgy, Lee Richardson remarkable, Luis Guzman, Charles S. Dutton, Fyvush Finkel, Patrick O'Neal, Paul Calderon and everyone else spectacular in key support roles. The depth of credibility in their characters rams the film home and Lumet creates interest and tension in equal measure with a gripping story full of colour, mood ... and a sense of danger that propels the film to its climax.
Published June 25, 2009
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Q&A: DVD (M)
CAST: Nick Nolte, Armand Assante, Timothy Hutton, Patrick O'Neal, Lee Richardson, Luis Guzman, Charles S. Dutton, jenny Lumet, Paul Calderon, International Chrysis
PRODUCER: Burtt Harris, Arnon Milchan
DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet
SCRIPT: Sidney Lumet (book by Edwin Torres)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrzej Bartkowiak
EDITOR: Richard Crincione
MUSIC: Ruben Blades
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Rosenberg
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD
SPECIAL FEATURES: [Subtitles: English for HI, plus Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Suomi]
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox HE
DVD RELEASE: 2008
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.