Script consultant UK looks back on Q & A (1990)

As the busiest UK script consultant, script writer for hire and script doctor in the business I spend a lot of time watching movies from the past, this week I managed to catch up with a real classic – Sidney Lumet’s Q & A.

This film is based on a book by the writer Edwin Torres – the guy who originally created the character of Carlito Brigante, who a couple of years later, would appear on film and be played by Al Pacino in Brian De Palma’s classic –Carlito’s Way

This is a more realistic film that De Palma’s romantic gangster piece. And it has a real air of authenticity – probably because Edwin Torres the writer was also Judge Edwin Torres of the New York district court. Edwin put a lot of crooks and cops away in his full time job so the process of the Q & A is very real.

Q & A, Timothy Hutton, Nick Nolte, 1990

The film is a police procedural, about an investigation of a dirty cop (played by Nick Nolte – in the best performance of his career). It also touches on issues of race relations in the police and racism in wider society.

Lumet has cameraman Andrzej Bartkowiak who gives the film a realistic look, but when it rains he captures the New York streets at their most cinematic.

The film has problems, some miscasting in places, but it has Armand Assante as Bobby Texador (who is kind of like Carlito) – Armand is fabulous in this film – he could have played Carlito for DePalma.

Armand and Luis Guzman have a great scene together– playing two guys from the old neighbourhood on either sides of the law – who set in motion the investigation – which will see deaths across the board.

The music (especially the opening theme) is often criticised as being out of place, but the actual score itself is very good (but I could live without the theme song too).

This is a film for acting students and writers – watch Nick Nolte – he can do more with one look  – than twenty pages of dialogue will ever do.

The trailer is below…

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire  and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour

His directorial debut Markham will be released in 2019.