Movie Review: An obsessed cop with “Unidentified” issues

One sobering piece of knowledge worth considering every time you hear the “official” version of something deadly involving a police officer is the one thing almost every cop is a genuine expert in.

They know just what they can get away with, and how to get away with it.

That truism hangs over “Unidentified,” the first film in a planned “Romanian Trilogy” by “Miracle” (the second film) filmmaker Bogdan George Apetri. Because from the minute we meet detective/inspector Florin Iespas (Brogdan Farcas), he seems off.

Florin is haggard and unshaved, like a young Liam Neeson staggering through a long bout of insomnia. He’s bickering his his chatty boss (Vasile Muraru) about a case he wants to take from another cop. A couple of hotels have burned down. The same guy owned them. Florin in sure he can “close this case in two days.”

The first thing that strikes you about his chief is how much he loves hearing himself talk. He’s got all these jokes he likes to trot out to the never-laughing Florin. The second thing is how unconcerned he is over justice, whether or not someone getting away with murder (two cleaning women died in the hotel fires).

So what if the detective on the case is on vacation? He’s not reassigning it. If it’s “cleared,” or not, so what? Go get some sleep, and put in a good word for my niece who wants to attend your fiance’s music conservatory.

“Unidentified” is a thin mystery barely concealed by a character study of a cop’s obsession. Florin copies the file on the sly and starts sweating the “Gypsy” he’s fingered as a suspect (Dragos Dumitru). Florin trots out his “theory” about what’s happened, makes threats and “sweats” the guy — breaking all sorts of protocols in addition to violating the guy’s civil rights.

When we see Florin visiting the service station where this suspect works, and then staking out the last hotel in the chain that had two other properties catch fire, we start to ask questions. When we see him hit himself in the face with his gun butt, we have our first answer.

Somebody’s in for a railroading. But to what end?

Apetri takes into a corner of never-filmed Romania (Piatra Neamt, his hometown) for a story of a man unraveling right before our eyes. Farcas gives Florin a sort of sedated mania, a tall man capable of things, dodging calls by creditors, ignoring orders and off on a vendetta with his own agenda.

We hear him ask if the lives of those killed were worth nothing, and the emotion feels forced, manipulative. The clever conceit of this character and Farcas’ performance of him is the viewer suspects things even as the grounds for those suspicions comes at us unexplained and piecemeal. Florin seems sketchy from the get-go.

Apetri shows us plenty of actions that aren’t explained, that keep the viewer wondering “What’s this guy’s game?” But we have enough to piece it together, and pretty early on.

As a mystery thriller, “Unidentified” plays a tad draggy and sluggish. Apetri, working in the style of those old “Columbo” TV movies, squeezes a simple, obscure whodunit/who’s doing it with 90 minutes worth of incidents into a slack two hour movie.

We have the clues. We’ve even got a hint of how everything will turn out based on the laissez faire attitudes, prejudices and tribalism of the police we meet.

Apetri still does a good job of not letting the obviousness weigh his story down.

Rating: unrated, violence

Cast: Brogdan Farcas, Dragos Dumitru and Vasile Muraru

Credits: Directed by Bogdan George Apetri, scripted by Bogdan George Apetri and Iulian Postelnicu. A Film Movement release.

Running time: 2:03

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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