A little dated-looking at this point, but no less involving, Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon", "Network") 's "Q & A" is not one of the director's strongest works, but it's still better than most police dramas. The 1990 film stars Nick Nolte as Detective Lieutenant Mike Brennan of the NYPD. As the film opens, Brennan has just killed a man outside a nightclub, planting the gun in the man's hand and forcing some of the club's occupants to be witnesses that Brennan wasn't the attacker.
We're then introduced to new district attorney Al Riley (Timothy Hutton), who is told that this is a simple, basic case where an obvious conclusion should be made. Brennan's convincing enough, especially given the fact that this is really one of the finer performances that Nolte's ever given. As with most of these films, it's only a matter of time before Riley finds that not only is Brennan corrupt, but that the corruption extends outwards.
"Q & A" works fairly well, but it contains its share of positives and negatives. Lumet's 132-minute picture is mostly dialogue-driven, but aside from a few stretches, Lumet's cast manages to make the conversations have enough impact to make the film involving. Some trims could have still made for more forward momentum and tension, though. The other issue is that the language for the film is raw. While this is played in a way that's powerful and brtual for many scenes, after a while there's just so much it becomes tiring.
On the other hand, the performances are enough to carry the majority of the film. Nolte is terrific, while Hutton makes one wonder why he couldn't have offered this kind of performance in more films when he was more widely recognized. Supporting performances by Luis Guzman and others are quite good, as well.
Overall, while this isn't one of the director's greatest works (and some of his greatest works are notable classics), it's still a very good film that could have been even better had Lumet streamlined it a bit. The performances are there, the characters are there, the gritty feel is certainly there, but the tension and pacing are somewhat inconsistent.
VIDEO: While the audio quality isn't without some noticable issues, the video presentation is actually quite good. While the low budget is noticable, cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak (cinematographer for everything from "Terms of Endearment" to "Speed", and now an action film director) manages to add a satisfactory amount of movement and style to liven up the material. Sharpness and detail are good, but not great. Still, I'm sure that the film's intentional look was never particularly slick.
Flaws in the presentation are scattered about, but it's more a case of a handful of smallish concerns rather than anything consistently visible. Hints of edge enhancement and a trace or two of compression artifacts are spotted, but these instances were nothing major. Of more concern were a few instances of specks and marks on the print used. Still, for a film that's now nearly fifteen years of age, "Q & A" looked pretty clean.
The film's color palette is certainly subdued, especially with the film's tone and many office interiors. The muted colors are handled well, though, while flesh tones look accurate. A nice 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation from Fox.
SOUND: The soundtrack is a fairly simple 2.0 track. A decemt amount of ambient sound is present and the score enters in every so often, but other than that, there's really not much to the soundtrack. Audio quality is surprisingly iffy; dialogue is somewhat shrill when yelled, while a mild amount of background hiss is present in many scenes.
Final Thoughts: "Q & A"'s negatives do have an impact on the film, but its positives - Nolte's performance, Lumet's direction - still make this certainly worth a viewing for fans of the director or police dramas in general. Fox's DVD doesn't offer any supplements and does show some problems with audio and video, but the price - as low as $9.99 at some stores - is right.
The Film ***