An idealistic rookie cop joins the LAPD to make ends meet while finishing law school, and is indoctrinated by a seasoned veteran. As time goes on, he loses his ambitions and family as police work becomes his entire life.
A group of new police recruits takes to patrolling the streets of Los Angeles. Roy Fehler is a law student with a family and has joined the LAPD until he can complete his degree. He's partnered with veteran patrolman Kilvinski and they soon develop a good rapport. On the street the policemen are exposed to the seedier side of life but Kilvinski is a fair cop and a good teacher. Over time however, Fehler comes to love the work and both his family and his studies fall by the wayside. Kilvinsky retires and Fehler loses his way, drinking heavily. Fehler's wife leaves him and he soon hits bottom. Just as he begins to get his life in order, fate intervenes. Written by
Wanting a better life for his family, Keach enlists with the LAPD to supplement his wife's meagre income while he attends law school. But the job soon becomes all consuming leading to the breakdown of his marriage to Alexander whose support wanes in the face of constant neglect playing second fiddle to the force. In turn, Keach loses touch with reality whereby he questions his motivations for remaining in situ, but the job compels him to endure. After a litany of setbacks, alcoholic and facing ruin, he's briefly resurrected by Cash, taking pity on his misguided loyalty, and helping him to re-discover the purpose he once idealised. Rich, rewarding tale of an everyday struggle is told in a rather grim but entertaining fashion by accomplished director Fleischer.
Despite solid performances from Keach and Alexander in particular, this is George C.Scott's movie, as the maverick older statesman with nothing but the badge to define his identity. His character is a scene stealer, and is at times, fierce, frightening, benevolent and ultimately, very bleak. The highly emotional scene in which Scott telephones Keach and relays the metaphor of the old man and his burglar, resonates throughout the remainder of the film, and beyond.
There's not the synergism that you'd expect and if it weren't for the distinction that Scott, Alexander and Wilson as the modest rookie, each bring to their respective characterisations, "The New Centurions" would be just another police story, and this is evidenced to a degree when their characters are no longer in focus. A very capable and vast supporting cast bring a gritty reality, and the story ebbs and flows toward a sudden and unexpected climax. The anguish experienced by the characters is palpable, and every time the mood brightens, there's another catastrophe waiting. Probably not the movie to watch before joining the academy, but highly entertaining and thought-provoking nonetheless.
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