November 18, 2022

UNIDENTIFIED: Bad Cop, Good Movie, Timely Message

2020 / 123 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

The Romanian film, Unidentified, sets the plot in motion right away, with disheveled, brooding detective Florin Iespas (Bogdan Farcas) imploring his captain (Vasile Murary) to give him a case involving the burning of two hotels. Though the case wasn’t his to begin with, he insists he can crack it in a couple of days. He suspects the hotels were torched by slow-witted gypsy security guard Banel (Dragos Dumitru) at the behest of the owner.

However, the investigation isn’t the actual story. Instead, it’s a ruse for Florin’s to carry out an agenda. Though the viewer first assumes he’s just an overly-dedicated cop, cracks are slowly revealed in his persona. Florin is estranged from his wife and heavily in debt, on the verge of losing his car and apartment. Even then, his creditors are simply inconveniences impeding on his plan, which we aren’t made privy to until late in the film. But since he turns out to be a cruel, narcissistic bastard, we suspect it’s something terrible. Though not remotely likable, Florin is a morbidly fascinating character.

Someone could use a breath mint.
Much of the middle act has a deliberate pace and somber tone somewhat similar to Bad Lieutenant. We witness Florin struggle to keep his head above water while his personal life unravels around him, but eventually come to the realization that the so-called investigation, his treatment of Banel and the people under his surveillance are part of a scheme that’s actually very personal. Though a little too meandering at times, the narrative methodically builds dread until Florin's intentions become clear during the final act. Not only has he been using (and abusing) his authority as a means to an end, he might actually be psychotic. 

But it’s the final scene that ultimately reveals writer-director Bogdan George Apetri’s true intentions. It turns out that Unidentified isn’t really about Florin either. His story is actually a vessel for calling-out racism that’s unfortunately prevalent in many public institutions (such as the Romanian police force, we assume). That Apetri is able to convey such a timely message with just a few lines of dialogue is nothing short of brilliant. If the viewer isn’t a little infuriated by the time the end credits roll, they probably haven’t been paying attention (to the movie or the state of the world in general). 


AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Bogdan George Apetri.


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