Friday, May 1, 2009

Film Review: Q&A (1990, Sidney Lumet)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 132 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Nick Nolte, Timothy Hutton (Romero's THE DARK HALF, KINSEY, ORDINARY PEOPLE), Luis Guzman (THE LIMEY, THE SUBSTITUTE, TRAFFIC), Armand Assante (THE ODYSSEY TV miniseries, JUDGE DREDD, STRIPTEASE) , Charles S. Dutton (SE7EN, CROCODILE DUNDEE II, SURVIVING THE GAME), Paul Calderon (BAD LIEUTENANT, COP LAND, PULP FICTION), Jenny Lumet (Sidney's daughter, writer of RACHEL GETTING MARRIED), Fyvush Finkel (PICKET FENCES, NIXON), Rubén Blades soundtrack.
Tag-lines: "When the questions are dangerous, the answers can be deadly. " Seriously. What the hell kind of tag-line is that?
Best one-liner: "You know, we knew you was a punk then but you're being a punk now. Yeah, detective, come on, you couldn't find a fucking Jew in Rockaway. You know, you got a badge and a gun but you're still a punk so shut the fuck up."

Q: Has Sidney Lumet ever made a bad movie?
A: Maybe just once. But we're not here to talk about THE WIZ, we're here to talk about Q&A.

Q: So how is Q&A?
A: It's pretty damn brilliant. It's Abel Ferrara gritty, it's got the Lumet police procedural, melodrama, and man vs. the system we've seen in SERPICO and PRINCE OF THE CITY, and it's got a ridiculously good ensemble cast.

Q: How ridiculously good?
A: Nolte is a goddamned powerhouse as the closeted gay, completely vicious, macho old-school cop. He's corpulent, terrifying, and larger than life.

Nolte terrorizes trans hookers...

...and Timothy Hutton...

...with great ease...

...and sinister, closeted flair.

Armand Assante, Luis Guzman, and Paul Calderon shine, as always, and Timothy Hutton is formidable as our entry point into this world of cigar-smoke-filled-room deals, gleeful corruption, and good-old-boys' protections.

Q: Does Lumet ask the tough questions?
A: He leaps headfirst into a world of racism, homophobia, trans sex workers, and rampant police corruption, so...yeah. He doesn't gloss over any detail, showing a sick, prejudiced, oligarchical world that's unlikely to be cured by anything short of an apocalypse.

Q: Well, if you're gushing all over the place, why just four stars?
A: Well, I'll tell you. Q&A falls in that span between 1990 and 1994 when the 80's were getting awkwardly phased out and it became especially evident in film music. Wang Chung feels perfectly natural in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. because that's supposed to be the aesthetic- 80's summer heat, gently pulsating beats, and lots of pastels. The musical mess that Ruben Blades concocts here is not tied to anything, works against the aesthetics, and definitely undermines the film. Something like a Howard Shore score (think his soundtrack for Cronenberg's CRASH) would have been a perfect fit.
Anyway, the film also ends on a note that screams studio intervention. So overall, four stars, but still a brilliant film. It's all there in the Q&A.

-Sean Gill

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