Q & A

I once did a three day condensed version of the BBC’s directors course. The BBC director who took the course liked to show clips of a film about the making of Sidney Lumet’s Q & A. Especially scenes showing Nick Nolte going ‘too big’ as the film started shooting.

Nolte is playing corrupt cop Brennan in this film, and it’s one of the great performances of the 90s. But, initially he and Lumet clashed over what Lumet perceived as over acting. Lumet had to keep pulling Nolte back.

Watching the film now, Nolte’s best moments come in quiet scenes. The sequence where he realises in a close up that Timothy Hutton’s character won’t back him up if he finds out that he’s dirty is brilliant and spine tingling. Nolte does it with a glance, a flicker of emotion across his face.

The film is a classic, and my favourite Lumet film. It’s marred by a slightly dodgy soundtrack, but it gets better and better on repeated viewings and the performances and script grow as the years pass.

The dialogue is chewable, and Armand Assante steals many scenes as the crime boss – the film feels like a more realistic and less romantic Carlito’s Way in parts. And this is because it was based on a book by Edwin Torres, the man who wrote the novel Carlito’s Way and a former New York judge.

The trailer below doesn’t give much away and should whet your appetite. See the film at the earliest opportunity, it’s the best 1990s noir.

So, 21 films to go…

Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script consultant, script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.