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This is a superb psychological thriller with a brilliant lead performance
from Sean Connery.
Connery plays a police detective nearing burn-out, the fuse for which is provided by a child molester on the loose. When a suspect (Ian Bannen) is arrested, the detective takes it upon himself to interrogate the man -- and ends up beating him to death. From there, the film examines what drove the detective to do it, through individual scenes with his wife (Vivien Merchant) and the internal affairs officer investigating the beating (Trevor Howard). The final third of the film takes us step by step through the interrogation, as Bannen turns the psychological tables on Connery, making the detective see exactly the sort of animal that he has become as a result of twenty years of dealing unrelentingly with violence and death.
John Hopkins' screenplay plays very much like a stage play (it was adapted from Hopkins' play "This Story of Yours"), but in this case it works to the film's advantage as Connery's life is compartmentalized (by virtue of the scene structure) in a way that makes his personal life seem completely walled-off from his job, and his job completely walled off from the interrogation. As a result, his character's inability to deal with anything but his job (and consequently, even that) gives us marvelous clues as to why he does what he does. Sidney Lumet's direction -- his third venture with Connery (previously the two worked on two of Connery's best films: "The Hill" (1965) and "The Anderson Tapes" (1971)) -- utilizes the stagy conventions well to advance the story and to enhance the performances.
As for the performances, these are uniformly excellent. Connery has never been better, playing a character who is anything but invulnerable, instead being a bundle of nerves and frustrations which explode into violence at crucial moments. Bannen is every bit his match as a complex, manipulative character who is at the same time sympathetic (as Connery's victim) and repulsive (for the sadistic delight he takes in pushing Connery's buttons). Indeed, one of the strengths of the story is that it is never revealed whether Bannen did in fact molest the children in question -- by doing so, the film makes us understand that this is not the issue. Instead, the film is more about internal demons -- how we all have them, and how we can either control or be controlled by them.
Howard is solid in what is perhaps the least interesting role in the film, but Merchant is phenomenal as Connery's plain wife, who has withstood his emotional abuse and neglect for years, sometimes in silence, sometimes not, but always with dignity. In perhaps one of the most poignant moments in the film, Connery, half-drunk, looks up at her, and asks in wonderment, "Weren't you ever pretty?" Merchant's lines following that are less important for their text, than for her reading of them -- wounded, but still confronting her husband like a prize fighter who's determined not be knocked out by a cheap shot in the fifteenth round.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this film is that it is practically unknown in the United States, and that it did not air in enough American theaters to qualify for the Oscars. Otherwise, it would quite likely have resulted in Oscar nominations for Connery (in an otherwise weak year for the Best Actor category, the only comparable performance nominated was Al Pacino's in "Serpico"), Bannen, and Merchant, not to mention Hopkins and possibly Lumet. All the same, definitely a film worth seeing if you're tired of watching detective films where Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson blow away half of Los Angeles.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Offence is Sean Connery's best performance in a major motion
picture, the problem though is that the film bombed and was rarely seen
in the cinema, probably due to the material content of this very dark
and dramatically compelling story.
Connery plays Sargeant Johnson, a twenty year veteran hard boiled detective who is investigating the disappearance of a schoolgirl, snatched by a serial child molester that the local police have been trying to capture for some time.
The schoolgirl is later found by Johnson in the woods, while out on a search patrol with uniformed officers, there's nothing brutal or gory about him finding her but she is caked in mud and her shirt is torn, suggesting rape, which is brutally harrowing in itself.
The way Johnson tracks the victim in the woods depicts his knack for (thinking)? the way the mysterious molester would, partly hinting that policeman and criminal have the same instincts.
The best scenes in the film are the interrogation between Johnson and Kenneth Baxter, brilliantly played by the late Ian Bannen.
Baxter is brought in as a suspect, having been found wandering around the town at the dead of night in a daze, covered in mud with scratches on his face, the film cleverly has Johnson start off the interrogation tough and cunning, cutting between other police characters duties in other parts of the station, then going back to the interrogation where Johnson brutally beats Baxter to death in a rage.
After a brilliant enquiry scene between Connery's character and Trevor Howard's superintendent Cartwright, we go back to the Interrogation between Johnson and Baxter, and realise that we were seeing only snippets of that conversation halfway through the film, we discover to our shock that Johnson's mentality and state of mind are as fragile and twisted as Baxter's, a result of twenty years of murders, rapes, robberies, suicides, vehicle road accidents and cases likes this, turning it in his mind again and again until it becomes a blur, and finds HE is just as capable of murder and inhuman behaviour as the suspect he is interrogating.
Grim and compelling, this is one of the darkest and disturbing films your ever likely to see, and anyone who says that Sean Connery can't act, then they should see this film immediately.
An underrated classic.
The writer of this moving and disturbing film, John Hopkins, once said that
to understand the nature of human evil one must first look inwards at
oneself. Therein lie the answers. With 'The Offence', Hopkins took this
philosophy to the limit and created a stunning portrayal of latent evil
emerging from the wrecked personality of a good man.
Sean Connery's plays a cop who has seen too much of the dark side of human nature. The relentlessly brutal horrors of his job have eroded his human decency to the point where his own perverse subconscious urges are lured to the surface. Connery's failure to articulate his own tortured feelings leads to frustration and hostility as he becomes alienated him from his wife and colleagues. To his horror he realises that the only person who truly understands his pain is a suspected child molester (played with slippery relish by the late great Ian Bannen). Eventually, Connery's growing emotional dependency on Bannen leads to violent catharsis and death.
Sidney Lumet has never quite made a film like this before or since. Although he is on familiar ground - cops under intolerable pressure - the dream-like cinematic textures achieved here are reminiscent (though not imitative) of Welles and Tarkovsky.
The film is an acting tour de force: Connery and Bannen give the performances of their lives. Vivien Merchant and Trevor Howard are also compelling in vital supporting roles. Harrison Birtwhistle's sophisticated musical score supports the characters and scenes perfectly.
'The Offence' is one of the few films which accurately captures the bleak, estranged architecture of the many English New Towns that sprang up in the 50's and 60's. Lumet's eye for these soul-sucking landscapes is brilliant - better than that of most English directors. Originally conceived as 'workers paradises' by over zealous town-planners, these would-be concrete utopias rapidly became focal points of social malaise. It is fitting that Connery's troubled character should live and work in such desolation.
The story is not only emotionally complex but has an ambitious, multi-layered, time-shifted narrative structure that echoes the fractured memory of Connery's character. Lumet takes all these elements and shapes them into an unforgettable portrait of human frailty.
This film is a fine masterpiece by a masterful director. This is definitely one of the gems in his filmography, hardly known film, but a wonderful character study, a powerful insight in ones fears, and an example how any man can fall under the pressure of his own psyche. Connery is in one of his best roles, here, Bannen too. This film shows that there's something awkward in any man, and that the mind of a serial rapist can sometimes be less burdened than the mind of an ordinary decent man, who should protect the society from those, but can't handle it. All in all this one is highly ranked among the first five of Lumet's films. Not to forget the photography, which is brilliant as well, so deservedly I give it 10 out of 10.
Lumet is at his best when he's close to filmed stage production:"twelve
angry men" "dog day afternoon" "deathtrap" and even "murder on the
orient express"are good examples.That is to say "The offence" is a
talky work,par excellence the psychological drama.They say Sean Connery
had to make another Bond (diamonds are forever) to be able to portray
this cop.He made it a winner:it's one of his three best parts in the
seventies with "the man who would be king" (1975)and "Robin and Marian"
(1976).These three films cast him as an anti-hero(Huston's work),a has
-been legendary character (Lester's) and here a psychotic cop:demeaning
parts indeed,a million miles away from James Bond -but even when he was
in his Bond era,Connery had made "the hill" with Lumet,another
"The offence" appears first as another serial killer story.But the script focuses on a cop,and we are far from the cardboard character we have encountered so many times since (eg the alcoholic but handsome detective ,naturally a divorcée ,who finds love again and redeems himself:if you're looking for that ,and horrible crimes ,pass by).Connery's man psyche is shot ."I would not have your thoughts" says the suspect who reveals a deep malaise.Actually,we will never completely know what's going on in the cop's mind:his job seems to have driven him insane ,and at home,he's a frustrated husband (You're not a beauty,he tells his wife,you're not even pretty).Atrocious pictures fleetingly appear on the screen,building some incomplete jig-saw puzzle. But it's Connery's portrayal,at once frightening and pitiful,which gives the movie its incredible strength and the supporting cast is up to scratch.
Arguably the best of Sidney Lumet's British films, this one benefits from a brilliant script by John Hopkins and a tour-de-force performance by Sean Connery as a cop who's been pushed too far. The interrogation scenes between him and an excellent Ian Bannen, as the prime suspect in a child molestation case, are riveting. Hopkins' dialogue is uncannily subtle in its gradual illumination of the psychological states of its two antagonists. Vivien Merchant is exceptional as Connery's emotionally-drained spouse. Gerry Fisher's cold, muted photography perfectly captures the sterility and bleakness of post-modern England. This is not a fun film, but its truths about the fragility of the human psyche are eloquently conveyed.
To me "The offence" is a must. I think this film deserves to be
rediscovered and reaprecciated, because it shows two giants of the
cinema at their peak.
Actually the film stars Sean Connery -here in his first role after quitting the official James Bond series-, he's directed by his long time friend Sidney Lumet, one of the most talented American directors. The movie is like a theatrical piece, there's not much action. Everything stands on the actors and their expressions, the atmosphere is dark and depressing. But this is is the goal of the story. Sean is a 40 years old policeman, who faces again with a case of child abuse. He's used to deal with the most miserable stories of humanity... But this time his rage and frustrations explode: he beats a suspected person (Ian Bannen) and loses the control, he kills him. He's suspended from the service.
The movie is a psychological study of a hard man, who loses his dignity and understands too late he's a disturbed man as well. "The offence" is a small British film, a big contrast to the lavish 007 productions. We have not a hero here, we have an actor who proves once more to be a wonderful performer -here the desperation of his character is really deep.
In 1972 the movie didn't enjoy a big success, it has been revalued with the time. (maybe the story was too sad and disturbing for being a hit). Today it's considered a milestone in Connery's career. Of course it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sean Connery gives arguably the best performance of his career in this
dark and exceptionally disturbing thriller from director Sidney Lumet
(with whom the big Scot had already made The Hill and The Anderson
Tapes). The Offence was a box office bomb, not because it is a
hopelessly weak film but because the grim subject matter and the
relentlessly bleak tone were too challenging for general audiences. You
don't go to see a film like this if you're seeking jolly weekend
entertainment. If, however, you're looking for a serious film which
deals with powerful themes with unflinching courage, then The Offence
is certainly close to the mark. It is a rather hard film to watch, and
is definitely not a film that encourages repeat viewings, but there's
no denying Connery's mesmerising presence nor the horrifying, probing
nature of the story.
London cop Detective Sergeant Johnson (Sean Connery) has spent his career dealing with gruesome crimes and squalid criminal characters. He balances the mental drain of his work by shutting out from his private life the terrible things he has seen. However, the discovery of a young girl (Maxine Gordon) who has been sexually abused pushes him over the edge. The main suspect in the case, Baxter (Ian Bannen), is brought in for questioning. But during the interrogation D.S. Johnson is so overwhelmed by anger and revulsion (linked both to the actual molestation case and all the deplorable crimes he has worked on previously) that in frustration he attempts to beat a confession out of the suspect. Johnson so over-does the beating that Baxter dies, and the cop finds himself under the scrutiny of an internal enquiry headed by Lieutenant Cartwright (Trevor Howard).
Throughout the film the acting is superlative. Connery is fabulous as the tormented detective (many feel he should have won an Oscar for this role, rather than The Untouchables, though perhaps The Offence was not a "big" enough release to be viewed as serious Oscar material). Bannen as the suspected child molester is totally convincing; Vivian Merchant as Connery's absurdly nonchalant wife is outstanding (especially in the scene where her husband describes to her the horrors he has seen in stomach-churning detail); and Trevor Howard is his usual powerful self as the enquiry-head who has to draw difficult conclusions about the cop's violent conduct. The Offence is gritty, hard-hitting cinema for those who want to go there. Few will find it an enjoyable experience, but that was never the film's intention anyway.... the idea here is to be taken well beyond one's comfort zone, and in that respect the film hits its goal.
Director Sidney Lumet ("12 Angry Men", "Dog Day Afternoon", "The Verdict")
has found a very interesting style for this picture about a police
detective's wrong way of dealing with his problems and the evil in the
society around him. "The Offence" (1973) is well-photographed by Gerry
Fisher (who also did the cinematography for two other Lumet films: "The Sea
Gull" and the great "Running on Empty"). The performances are extremely
good. Sean Connery is as brilliant as in Lumet's masterful prison drama
Hill". And Ian Bannen, Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant are excellent as
Although the suspenseful film gets sometimes a little slow-moving, it is a really admirable achievement.
Remarkable, dark, disturbing film. Sean Connery was a perfect, suave
James Bond, and many of his later films were just audience-pleasing
parodies, but this man can act. His portrayal of a seemingly
hard-boiled detective merge perfectly later with the sociopathic figure
he really has become. This is a searing film, which creeps up on you,
and stuns you with sudden realizations. Connery's character (Sergeant
Johnson) would have probably lived out his career, and his life,
literally drowning in his sickness and misery, but for his meeting with
Baxter, a suspected child molester and murderer. As the interview
progresses, Baxter can clearly see the illness and pathology in
Sergeant Johnson, and each push the other's buttons, closer and closer
to the edge, and beyond. The revelations revealed take you back and
forth, until you don't quite know who the real deviant is.
Sean Connery and Ian Bannen were simply breathtakingly good. Great atmosphere and pacing in this dark, chilling movie. The slow, brooding, quiet pace to the film lends an air of disquiet, and an impending tragedy.
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