Police, Adjective
We get it … you’re waiting and watching … DO something!

Theatrical Release Date: 02/12/2010
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
Cast: Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, Irinia Saulescu, Ion Stoica, Marian Ghenea, Cosmin Selesi

Romania’s official entry for this year’s Academy Awards (though it did not receive a nomination), “Police, Adjective” concerns a cop (Dragos Bucur) put on a case to nab some local teens selling relatively small amounts of drugs. The film chronicles him staking out the suspects, gathering evidence and battling with following the letter of the law or his own morality concerning the consequences of arresting them for what some consider minor offenses (as other countries in Europe allow for recreational use of certain drugs).

Here’s the problem with the whole film though. While the title may be “Police, Adjective”, it really should be titled “Police, Coma”. The audience basically watches Bucur as he tails the teens … he observes them enter a building … he waits outside … and waits … and waits … and waits … until they exit the building … then he follows them home … then he writes a report about all this waiting and watching … we then get the privilege of reading the report on-screen concerning everything we just watched … rinse and repeat.

Between each stake out, he either goes home to talk about abstract issues with his wife or goes to the police station to pick small fights with his colleagues or cajole one of them into running background on a suspect. These transitional scenes help to partially awaken us from our cinematic slumber but it’s hard to escape that the film has the energy of a low watt desk lamp.

Worse still is that while I have seen plenty of films use the technique of methodically burning the monotony of someone’s life into the audience as a means of helping us to relate to the character, it’s never really made clear why Bucur takes such an interest in these kids and finds it so hard to just follow the guidelines set forth to him by the law and his superiors.

Is he having a crisis of faith that some earlier incident caused? If so, I’d have liked to know about it. Is the point to see how banal and tedious police work is? If so, mission accomplished. In one scene, we sit patiently as a secretary types for what seems like five minutes and then a phone rings. That ringing is so exciting in comparison to the rest of the film that it reminded me of “Scream” as Drew Barrymore was freaking out … sadly, no masked killer then entered the police station and gave me any reason to fire some more neurons in my head.

There is one very clever scene, towards the end, when Bucur is being lectured about the definitions of conscience and law by his chief. Had there been more scenes like this (the ones with his wife come close but there aren’t enough of them), then I could better absolve all the sitting and waiting that happens in between. And instead of there being some mounting tension about Bucur wrestling within himself, it all comes off as monotonous voyeurism.

If you want a film paced with the speed of continental drift about people having abstract discussions about dialectics, the definition of morality and the like, you’ve found your film. I also allow that my dislike of the film stems from the problems of a different cultural approach, as I’m an American watching Romanian film making but even though a film may move slowly, it’s usually much more clear what the characters’ motives are and here it was just an exercise in battling the Sandman (the guy who puts you to sleep, not Thomas Haden Church). A 2 out of 5, if you’re a hardcore Romanian film buff or need to see all of director Corneliu Porumboiu’s films, go for it … otherwise, move along now, nothing to see here.