A couple of years ago, I saw a very funny little film from Romania called Two Lottery Tickets that takes place in a little backwater inhabited by odd characters. That film’s director Paul Negoescu is back with another film, this time his quirky characters live in a bucolic village under the control of a corrupt mayor and his priest buddy. The central character is Ilie (Iulian Postelnicu), the town’s 30-something police chief who really just wants to be left alone and to settle down and plant an orchard. Only the arrival of new young junior officer Vali (Anghel Damian) and a murder upset his simple dream.
Ilie begins the film trying to talk his ex-wife in the city into selling the apartment they own together so he can buy some land and have his orchard. She is reticent, wondering if he will get tired of the country life and come back to the city one day. He doesn’t think so, and when he gets back to the village, the mayor makes him a surprising offer of land with an orchard, if he will just turn a blind eye to some of his shady business dealings. Ilie is cool with that. But when a villager turns up dead, and young Vali starts doing actual police work, the town isn’t too happy about it, particularly the mayor who expects Ilie to reign in his new young protege. Which he does, until the breadth of the criminality of the place hits him in the face and he decides he has to act.
When he tells his ex-wife that he has to do something, she reminds him, “You fucked up your career once by playing the knight.” But he doesn’t listen and the results play out in the perhaps most inept shoot out in film history. Men of Deeds is a darkly humorous little film about as far as you can get from a Hollywood flick. No stars. A spare script. But it works because of a handful of small elements. You feel for Postelnicu’s Ilie. He’s a sad sack goaded into action by the presence the only beautiful woman in town and his reluctant conscience. And the atmosphere of corruption that lies beneath every interaction he has with the mayor and his sidekick is insidious, beginning as a comic theme and escalating to the bloody ending. The film is in just a couple of theaters now, but definitely look for it when it comes to your favorite streaming services.
In select theaters now.