Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked to Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Bogdan George Apetri
Screenplay: Bogdan George Apetri, Iulian Postelnicu
With: Bogdan Farcas, Dragos Dumitru, Vasile Muraru, Emanuel Parvu, Olimpia Malai
Screening on: Critics’ link, NYC, 07/09/22
Opening: September 16, 2022
Moviegoers have come to accept that Romanian films are likely to be dark, albeit with the occasional humor. Inasmuch as humor is part of Bogdan George Apetri, the director opens the film with a lame joke from Comisar Sef (Vasile Muraru), the chief of police in a small Romanian town, talking to Florin Iespas ( Bogdan Farcas). Said the chief to his inspector without smiling, a man who aspires to join the police takes an oral test.
What is twice two?
What is the square root of 100?
Who killed Abraham Lincoln?
I don’t know but I’ll find out.
That night, he tells his girlfriend about the test, bragging that he not only passed, but the boss has already given him a mission to find a killer.
The movie ends with an even more sordid joke, but between the two alleged gags there’s a lot of dark sentiment centering on police inspector Florin, obsessed like Victor Hugo’s Javert, ordered by the chief to take a week off. leave because the man is expelled from overwork. Because the Chief won’t take another detective off the case and give Florin the credentials, Florin is more determined than ever to undermine his colleague and solve a case.
Apetri’s “Miracle” about a young nun who never returns from urgent business shows the Romanian-born director as a man whose mind is on police matters. With “Unidentified”, it tells the story of a detective seemingly determined to solve an arson case. Florin believes, like his racist police colleagues, that Banel (Dragos Dumitru), an illiterate Roma (the term “gypsy” is considered politically incorrect), must be the culprit. After all, he’s the security guard for the owner of two hotels and assumes the guy’s boss told him to burn down the buildings for insurance. With Bogdan Farcas’ character, Florin, in virtually every frame, we see that Apetri’s goal is intense character study of a flawed individual.
The unsmiling, unshaven cop, with straight hair falling across his forehead, has financial problems, which thickens the plot, as he seems unable or unwilling to live off his salary, owes money to the bank and could soon have his car repossessed. His ex-wife Stela Bercaru (Ana Popescu) is a musician, which allows the film to intersperse aerial shots of the city with exquisite classical music. The tempo picks up dramatically in the second half of The Policeman, as Florin, after bullying poor Roma, turns his character around and moves to get him a better job.
“Unidentified” is all about the main character, whose bitter expressions, often an air of desperation, and manipulations to solve the case, ultimately lead him to his true purpose. Already looking like a scarecrow, as his boss calls him, he ends up with cuts and bruises on his face and a painful bullet in his shoulder. Farcas delivers an intense performance for a crime drama like few others.
Oleg Muti filmed the proceedings in Pietra Neamt in Romania in the historical region of Western Moldavia. In Romanian with English subtitles.
123 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Overall – B