Despite pressure from his superior, a small-town Romanian police detective named Cristi is reluctant to book a teen-ager for a petty hashish offense. (The kid merely lights up on the way to school.) Cristi fears the punishment will outweigh the crime and ruin the young man's life; it is not something he wants on his conscience. Thus, he spends the next few days trying to sort out both the "crime" and how to proceed with his boss.
Corneliu Porumboiu's spare film is not a police procedural for fans of either CSI or Hollywood shoot-'em-ups. This is a very slow film, made even more torpid by its bleak and shabby locales. Cristi spends a lot of time on surveillance, just watching, and even his tasks around the station house feel executed in real time.
The film's "action" is internal: All of Cristi's watching and administrative minutia is a search for a truth he can live with; we are watching an exercise of his conscience. For the patient, the pay-off comes in the last reel, when, of all things, a dictionary is introduced. (The film's other "action" is semantic.)
Police isn't as outright entertaining as Porumboiu's earlier 12:08 East of Bucharest. But, like that film, viewers knowledgeable about Romania's recent history will glean more of the embedded social critique and subtle dark humor. In Romanian, with subtitles. Starts Fri., March 12. Harris