Sidney Lumet’s feel for New York veracity led to blistering cinema including Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon; the best of his later work, including Before The Devil Knows Your Dead, has a more static feel but is no less savvy. 1990’s Q & A was not popular at the time, but it’s a meaty, substantial film that deals with genuine issues.
Fresh-faced assistant DA Al Reilly (Timothy Hutton) has his first case to deal with, and dirty cop Mike Brennan (Nick Nolte) has lots to hide. A self-defence shooting is revealed as a cold-blooded execution in the opening scene, and Reilly’s unravelling of the truth is the main thrust of the story. A second thread, involving Reilly’s romantic feelings towards to wife of drag baron Bobby Tex (Armand Assante) feels a bit more contrived, but the way Lumet details corruption, from a book by Supreme Court judge Edwin Torres (Carlito’s Way), is unflinching and absorbing for every minute of the 132 here.