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The Onion Field (1979)

Greg Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Smith (aka Jimmy Youngblood), a petty thief, as his partner in crime. Powell panics one night when the two of them are pulled over by a ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Det. Karl Francis Hettinger
...
Gregory Ulas Powell
Franklyn Seales ...
...
Det. Ian James Campbell
...
Det. Sgt. Pierce R. Brooks
David Huffman ...
Dist. Atty. Phil Halpin
...
Jailhouse lawyer
...
Helen Hettinger (as Diane Hull)
...
Chrissie Campbell
...
Greg's woman (as Beege Barkett)
...
Beat Cop
Le Tari ...
Emmanuel McFadden
Richard Venture ...
Det. Glenn Bates
...
Billy
Pat Corley ...
Jimmy's Lawyer #2
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Storyline

Greg Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Smith (aka Jimmy Youngblood), a petty thief, as his partner in crime. Powell panics one night when the two of them are pulled over by a pair of cops for broken brake-lights. Powell decides to kidnap the cops and Smith, as always, reluctantly goes along with Powell's crazy scheme. The group drives out to a deserted onion field in Bakersfield, California and one officer is shot while the other escapes. The remainder of the film explores the nature of the American justice system, as well as the devastating psychological effects of this event and the trial on the surviving officer. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

neo noir | trial | police | thief | robbery | See All (70) »

Taglines:

A True American Tragedy Captured on Film! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 March 1980 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Anthropokynigi sto Los Angeles  »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The bagpipe tune Detective Campbell is playing in the cells is the Piobaireachd (classical lament) Cha till MacCruimein (MacCrimmon shall never return). According to (unverifiable) legend, it was composed circa 1745 by the personal piper to the Chief of the Clan MacLeod, Donald Ban MacCrimmon, who had a premonition of his own death in battle. In January of the next year, during the Second Jacobite Rebellion, there was a minor skirmish known as the Rout of Moy, where the only man killed was a piper with the MacLeods, who were serving with the Hanoverian (government) forces. See more »

Goofs

Just before Powell's arrest on March 9, 1963, he is shown driving on a road marked with "Botts Dots". The lane markers were not used statewide until September 1966. See more »

Quotes

Det. Sgt. Pierce R. Brooks: Has your conscience ever bothered you? Like feeling - guilty?
Jimmy Smith: Mr. Brooks... I believe... I think that is something that rich white guys dreamed up to keep guys like me down. I honestly don't believe there is such a thing... such a feeling. Guilty? That's just something the Man says in court when your luck runs out.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Compelling 1st half but not so much 2nd half
5 July 2014 | by See all my reviews

Greg Powell (James Woods) recruits recently released ex-con Jimmy Youngblood (Franklyn Seales). They're going to rob a liquor store for the money to get to San Francisco. Det. Karl Hettinger (John Savage) is the new partner for Det. Ian Campbell (Ted Danson). They pull Powell over with broken tail lights. Powell pulls a gun on Campbell and take them both hostage. Powell promises to release them in Bakersfield. They drive to an onion field. Powell shoots Campbell and Youngblood screams in disbelieve. Hettinger escapes. Youngblood takes off with the car. Powell end up stealing a car and gets caught. Powell gives up Youngblood right away. The following investigation and trial take a toll on Hettinger's mental state.

This is based on a 1973 book about a 1963 incident. It definitely has the dated feel especially with the dialog. The first half is quite tense and compelling. James Woods give an interesting performance as the weirdly controlling crook. The second half isn't quite as compelling. It's very detailed and it suffers for it. It rambles on with complicated fragmented details. Wambaugh's script may be trying to follow the true story too closely and fails to follow the emotional story more truly.


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