Dirty cop, Mike Brennan thinks he got away with murder. But during a routine Q&A, the righteous assistant DA finds a clue that sets them both on a collision course.


Sidney Lumet (as Alan Smithee: television prints)


Edwin Torres (book), Sidney Lumet (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Nolte ... Mike Brennan
Timothy Hutton ... Al Reilly
Armand Assante ... Bobby Texador
Patrick O'Neal ... Kevin Quinn
Lee Richardson ... Leo Bloomenfeld
Luis Guzmán ... Luis Valentin (as Luis Guzman)
Charles S. Dutton ... Sam Chapman (as Charles Dutton)
Jenny Lumet ... Nancy Bosch
Paul Calderon ... Roger Montalvo
International Chrysis International Chrysis ... Jose Malpica
Dominic Chianese ... Larry Pesch (as Dominick Chianese)
Leonardo Cimino ... Nick Petrone
Fyvush Finkel ... Preston Pearlstein
Gustavo Brens Gustavo Brens ... Alfonse Segal
Martin E. Brens Martin E. Brens ... Armand Segal


A young district attorney seeking to prove a case against a corrupt police detective encounters a former lover and her new protector, a crime boss who refuses to help him in this gritty crime film. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


When the questions are dangerous, the answers can be deadly.


Crime | Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Jenny Lumet (Nancy Bosch) is the daughter of the director Sidney Lumet. See more »


Chief Quinn asks ADA Reilly why he did not attend St. John's Law School. Hutton says his father didn't like the Jesuits. St. John's University is not a Jesuit institution. It is conducted by the Vincentians. See more »


Det. Luis Valentin: This case is dirty, I feel it in the cojones you know?
Det. Sam 'Chappie' Chapman: You're listening to a piece of shit like Bobby Tex, the day you start believing a damn dope-dealing Spic against a cop like Mike is the day I turn in my badge! Mike Brennan is the best cop I ever saw! First one through the door, the window, the skylight, he stepped in front of a bullet for me once, caught it in his left hand and shoved it up the punk's ass! Now unless you know, don't blow, this is serious.
See more »


Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Jay Livingston Music/St. Angelo Music
See more »

User Reviews

Some of the performances may verge on ham, the music may be mostly awful and some elements of the narrative fall flat but for what it does well it is certainly worth a look
18 December 2006 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Lieutenant Michael Brennan has a tough reputation as an old-style cop that breaks balls but gets the job done. However had someone seen Brennan hiding in a dark alley outside a club until his suspect came out for a p1ss only for Brennan to shoot him dead and plant a gun that had been used in other murders, then that reputation may not do him much good. On this occasion Assistant DA Al Francis is brought in to do the investigation – one that is sold to him as a formality to get him started. The Q & A's go well but Francis is given enough to doubt that the shooting was as clean as Brennan tells it – however Brennan is not the type you easily square up to and soon the stakes are high.

Opening with a sudden moment of violence this film leaves you in no doubt that Brennan is not a rough cop so much as a cop operating above the law on his own agenda. Like The Shield has done recently this drama puts us in the complex world of the grey areas and invites us to consider the pay off between doing things by the book or taking hard action and "getting results". It doesn't do this to a great extent though – just enough to be add layers to the character but clearly corrupt enough to be the evil heart of the story. The narrative builds a dark drama involving the police investigation into Brennan on one side, with the criminal awareness of Brennan's murders on the other. It isn't really a character piece about Brennan so much as it is a straight crime drama but it works very well for what it is. I have no idea why it is so underrated on IMDb because it is an effective thriller with an enjoyably tough edge to it from start to near-finish. I say near-finish because the film concludes by tying up the story with Francis' relationships and soul – neither of which are that well done across the film and thus I didn't care as much as I should have done.

Lumet's direction is good and captures the depressing feel of New York at its lowest point. However the choice of music has two detrimental effects. Firstly it dates the film really badly, which is maybe a problem that can be forgiven as part of time going by. The second impact is less forgivable and must have been a problem at the time and this is how the music fits with the drama. For example several key scenes are played out under the chirpy tune "Don't Double-Cross the Ones you Love"; it is as grating and clunky as it sounds and it is a stupid effect that happens several times with the same result.

The cast are mostly very good though. Nolte chews the scenery and steals every scene with a character so monstrous that even his absurd handlebar moustache cannot take away from it. Hutton is good enough to do the job but sadly his character isn't as convincing as it needed to be; the script tries to make him more interesting than a choir boy but it doesn't do it very well. Assante is a little OTT at times but he works well in his character and fills the gap left by Nolte's absence. Minor support is good and features a cast that got starry with time – Guzmán, Dutton, Chianese, Finkel and others. Lumet tries hard but her part of the narrative is weak and thus her task is a rather thankless one.

Despite the problems though this is still a solid and dark cop drama that holds the interest well. Some of the performances may verge on ham, the music may be mostly awful and some elements of the narrative fall flat but for what it does well it is certainly worth a look.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

27 April 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Q & A See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,816,605, 29 April 1990

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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