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.
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George C. Scott,
Trish Van Devere
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George C. Scott,
Trish Van Devere,
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
Joseph Wambaugh had a string of best-selling novels in the 1970's, all based on his experiences as a beat cop in the Los Angeles Police Department. 'The New Centurions' was one such novel, and this is the film of the book. Wambaugh's familiar world of drunks, domestic disputes, whores and 'busting fruits' is set out here with reasonable exactitude. Sterling ('Towering Inferno') Silliphant's screenplay is somewhat sluggish, but the Wambaugh ambience is immediately recognizable.
The point of the film is that yes, police work is physically dangerous, but the real threat to the officers' well-being comes from the emotional strain that they have to endure. Marriages founder and strong, healthy men take to drink and drugs because they get worn down by seeing what crime does to people. Often, they find their training and knowledge of the law completely useless, because the reality of street life makes glorified social workers of them. Some officers acquire a benign wisdom which enables them to bend the rules and do a little good. The esprit de corps among the officers is strong, and deep personal friendships are forged, but the job is an ugly, dirty, dangerous one and society is fortunate that there are some people willing to do it.
The friendship between rookie Roy Fehler (Stacey Keach) and veteran Andy Kilvinski (George C. Scott) is the centrepiece of the story. The younger man learns and grows under the tutelage of a partner who is an outstanding cop. We see Fehler in his turn become a veteran, but we also watch the decline of both men as the job grinds them down.
Intimate moments of unspoken affection between the two men are well done, and the Californian paradise which houses this human hell is nicely depicted, but would a senior police officer really beat up a rapacious landlord in the street? And after the innovative "Boston Strangler" of four years earlier, it is a shame to see this able director cranking out a film so devoid of artistic merit.
"I tried to hold on," says Fehler after being dragged along by a car. It's a metaphor for his police career.
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