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Needs More Active Verbs

By Brian Prisco | Film | January 7, 2010 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | January 7, 2010 |

Eastern Europe isn’t content with being the backdrop to major motion pictures, and so they’re throwing their hat in the ring for Oscar consideration. Romania’s Corneliu Poromboiu has been drawing attention with his solid little comedy Police, Adjective, which is what prompted me to give it a once over. Cristi, an undercover detective (Dragos Bucur) struggles with the decision whether or not to bust a young boy who’s been selling hashish to his two friends. The film spends time between long, establishing sequences of Cristi trailing the boy interspersed with clever dialogue exchanges about semantics and the police machine. While the exchanges — particularly the finale between the commander, Cristi, and a partner — are wickedly splendid, the rest of the film really feels drawn out. It’s kind of like watching “The Wire,” if “The Wire” were just hour long snippets of Freamon sitting around waiting for people to talk on the phone. There’s not really much tension or suspense; it’s mostly setting up the monotonous waiting and ridiculous nature of the whole undercover drug bust to stop one kid who’s not even really a dealer in the first place. It felt like it could have been a great short film, but is it Oscar worthy? Eh.

The subject matter is well trod, but Poromboiu manages to meditate cleverly on it. Is it really worth it to spend all this time and resources on busting some child who’s experimenting with drugs. Cristi has to jump through hoops to try to prevent the bust from going down — begging coworkers to rush research and evidence processing just to stop a young boy from getting arrested. The counselors and commanding officers are all committed to closing the case, using the logic that that boy would deal to two other friends, who would then deal to two other friends. It’s the kind of puritanical mentality that prevents the legalization of otherwise harmless narcotics. Even more intriguing is the semantical acrobatics, particularly since I didn’t think this would be as effective in a foreign film. Shows what I know.

Police, Adjective seemed like a deft stage play overstuffed with monotonous filler. It was decent, if too meandering. It was pleasant enough, with occasional thoughtful portions, but otherwise it was an unremarkable film. Like writing this review, there wasn’t much else to say.

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