29 April 2010 | agsconnolly
Stuck between greatness and clunkiness
Q & A is one of the most enigmatic films I've seen. It veers drastically between exceptionally good and oddly clunky and sometimes threatens to be pretty poor – and not necessarily in that order. It follows an investigation into a shooting by Michael Brennan, an experienced and ferociously tough police officer played magnificently by Nick Nolte in his pomp. The investigation is conducted by Timothy Hutton, who is a true revelation (to me, at least) as an almost equally tough, but mostly non-violent, lawyer. The situation is muddied by a shady drug-runner (Armand Assante) and a manipulative senior officer (Patrick O'Neal).
The introduction to Nolte's character is fabulous scene-setting, as he holds court with fellow officers regarding some previous rough-housing of a suspect. The Brennan profile is deep and somewhat mysterious – we like him, we hate him, we are disgusted by him
.and we want to see more of him. Speaking of which, the film could have benefited from more interplay between Nolte and Hutton. Hutton's brilliantly understated resilience to the aggression of Nolte and Assante, is a surprise and adds a true edginess to the film. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the very clunky love interest Hutton has with Assante's mistress – we discover they are former lovers who split up over some fairly tenuous business about her father being black. The continued revisiting of this strained relationship is weak and uses time that one feels could be better served building the Brennan character or at least promoting the Nolte/Hutton feud.
Other questionable points in the film concern the various plot turns that are almost casually thrown in and, whilst we don't lose track of proceedings, one feels we could have been given a better idea of how the characters arrive in certain situations. In short, by occasionally rushing things, Q & A often has you wondering if it's a bad film.
But there are some moments that are truly great – various scenes with Nolte, and a short office tantrum by Hutton towards the end. You certainly feel that if this film featured more high profile actors it would be considered much more significant than it is currently. I would recommend Q & A to anyone simply for the performances of Nolte and Hutton – and obviously to fans of gritty cop dramas, who will love it anyway.