DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
Q & A (director/writer: Sidney Lumet; screenwriter: from the book by Edwin Torres; cinematographer: Andrzej Bartkowiak; editor: Richard P. Cirincione; music: Ruben Blades; cast: Nick Nolte (Captain Lt. Michael 'Mike' Brennan, NYPD), Timothy Hutton (Asst. Dist. Atty. Aloysius 'Al' Francis Reilly), Armand Assante (Roberto 'Bobby Tex' Texador), Patrick O'Neal (Kevin Quinn, Chief of Homicide), Lee Richardson (Leo Bloomenfeld), Luis Guzmán (Det. Luis Valentin), Fyvush Finkel (Preston Pearlstein), Charles Dutton (Detective Sam Chapman), International Chrysis (Jose Malpica, female impersonator), Dominick Chianese (Larry Pesch), Paul Calderon (Roger Montalvo); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Patrick Wachsberger; Home Box Office (HBO) Home Video; 1990)

 
"Lumet pulls no punches showing a contemporary NYC plagued by racism, violence, crime, tribalism, cronyism, and corruption."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The final installment of director Sidney Lumet's trilogy about New York City police corruption following Serpico (1973) and Prince of the City (1981) is also an effective thriller. It tackles such pressing topics as police and judicial corruption, racism and street violence. It's based on the 1976 book by Edwin Torres, a New York State Supreme Court judge, who also wrote Carlito's Way (made into a movie in 1993). 

Al Reilly (Timothy Hutton), the son of a cop and a cop himself before getting his law degree, is an inexperienced, ambitious and idealistic assistant DA who is chosen to work his first case for the imperious Chief of Homicide, Kevin Quinn (Patrick O'Neal). He's asked to investigate what at first appears an open and shut case of the justifiable homicide of a small-time Hispanic drug dealer by Lt. Mike Brennan (Nick Nolte), one of NYPD's finest (but a loudmouth, racist, homophobic and dirty cop). The viewer already knows that it was a cold-blooded murder as the weapon was planted on the unarmed dead man by Brennan, who then intimidated witnesses to back up his story. During the routine Q&A, Reilly uncovers hints of widespread police corruption from one of the witnesses, a ruthless Puerto Rican Miami crime boss named 'Bobby Tex' Texador (Armand Assante), who coincidentally is living with the Hispanic girl, Nancy Bosch (Jenny Lumet, the director's daughter), Reilly was set to marry six years ago until he found out her father was black. 

When witnesses are wasted, the crusading assistant DA uncovers a link to the corruption between Brennan and Quinn (both yearning for the days when the Irish alone ran the police force). Going after the menacing Brennan with the help of two veteran NYPD detectives, Puerto Rican Luis Valentin (Luis Guzmán) and African-American Chapman (Charles Dutton), Reilly begins a serious investigation that shakes up the police department and will prove to be more than he can handle to get complete justice. The investigation reaches out to connect a corruption scandal to a Cuban drug dealer, the Mafia, and members of Manhattan's transvestite community.

In the end, which comes as no great surprise, Lumet shows a beleaguered city made up of cliques of blacks, Puerto Ricans, Irish and Italians, all playing the power game to get a piece of their pie no matter how violent or amoral are their actions. It's a city at war and a city that's racist from top to bottom, as Lumet pulls no punches showing a contemporary NYC plagued by racism, violence, crime, tribalism, cronyism, and corruption. It's tightly scripted, well-acted (especially by Nolte) and earnest in its presentation, but it's also somewhat ponderous, predictable and not totally convincing. 

REVIEWED ON 4/7/2006        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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