The Romanian director, Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest), has made a cop movie. There are lots of different kinds of cop movies. Stylish French, violent Asian, interracial buddy cop, Gene Hackman. So which kind is Police, Adjective? I’m not sure and I don’t think the movie is sure either. It’s a “what kind of cop movie am I?” kind of cop movie.
Why the funny title, Romanians? The main cop in a cop movie should have some adjectives to describe him. Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon is “crazed.” Gene Hackman in The French Connection is “consumed.” Takeshi Kitano in Violent Cop is “violent.” Alain Delon in every movie is “well-dressed.” Dragos Bucur (who plays Cristi) in Police, Adjective doesn’t know what his adjective is, but he’s trying to figure it out.
He gets a tip that a kid is dealing hash. The tip came from the kid’s friend, so he follows them around. Dealing hash is a serious crime that could land a kid in jail for years. Cristi thinks that law is pretty antiquated given neighboring countries’ “just put it in a brown paper bag” philosophies toward the little pipe inhabiter. Enter Cristi’s moral conflict: would he rather be a good cop and enforce laws he doesn’t totally agree with or not be a cop at all? I’m on the edge of my seat…
Police, Adjective is a slow movie. It comes at what I hope is the tail end of a very critically-friendly era for slow (“meditative”), boring (“calculating”), wordless (“thoughtful”), narrow (“introspective”) and detached (“profound”) movies that provide glimpses (“explorations”) into the human condition (life in a foreign country). These movies have been all the critical rage for the past decade. Some are good: Nobody Knows; some are average: Red Road; some are bad: Import Export, Lake Tahoe. Police, Adjective is getting a lot of positive reviews and did well at Cannes. Its culminating scene is of a man reading the dictionary.
I don’t know much about Romania. (Oh right, like you do). But there have to be some grand political implications here. A country dealing with a totalitarian past. A country poised on the brink of modernity. A country clinging fast to bureaucratic inaction. Any or all of the above probably apply. But we have to read deeper for all of that. Just like Cristi has to read deeper into what it means to devote his life to police service. Open your dictionaries.
Every scene shows Cristi trying to find his adjective. The movie goes as he goes. So we’re left to look for the movie’s adjective too. Other reviewers seem to be calling it “sophisticated”, “dry”, “minimalist”, “Kafkaesque”. Poorly defined as all those adjectives already are, I’ll go the way that Police, Adjective’s director as laid out and call it a [insert adjective here] movie.