6.8/10
4,589
46 user 24 critic

The Onion Field (1979)

An LA police officer is murdered in the onion fields outside of Bakersfield. However, legal loopholes could keep his kidnappers from receiving justice, and his partner is haunted by overwhelming survivor's guilt.

Director:

Harold Becker

Writers:

Joseph Wambaugh (book), Joseph Wambaugh (screenplay)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Savage ... Karl Hettinger
James Woods ... Gregory Powell
Franklyn Seales ... Jimmy Smith
Ted Danson ... Ian Campbell
Ronny Cox ... Pierce Brooks
David Huffman ... District Attorney Phil Halpin
Christopher Lloyd ... Jailhouse Lawyer
Dianne Hull ... Helen Hettinger (as Diane Hull)
Priscilla Pointer ... Chrissie Campbell
Beege Barkette ... Greg's Woman (as Beege Barkett)
Richard Herd ... Beat Cop
Le Tari ... Emmanuel McFadden
Richard Venture ... Glenn Bates
Lee Weaver ... Billy
Pat Corley ... Jimmy's Lawyer #2
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Storyline

Gregory Ulas Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Lee "Youngblood" Smith, 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

Taglines:

What Happened In The Onion Field Is True. But The Real Crime Is What Happened After. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was Ted Danson's feature film debut. See more »

Goofs

At around the eight-minute mark when the two police officers are in the diner, a neon sign behind them advertises a slice of pizza for fifty-cents. Back in 1963 fifty-cents would be today's equivalent of a little more than four-dollars which would have been unheard of back then. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Boy piper: Yeah, I think I'll play the bagpipes as long as I live.
Chrissie Campbell: I think that's a lovely idea.
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Connections

Referenced in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.3 (2011) See more »

User Reviews

 
Good first half, poor second half
7 September 2014 | by chengizSee all my reviews

Most people have commented here about the film being let down by a rather slow, poor and melodramatic second half. I agree but won't dwell on it since it's already discussed by better reviewers.

So let's discuss the acting. James Woods is very good as Powell, the main villain so to speak. Danson is very good as one of the detectives. Unfortunately, Savage (who plays the other detective) is a mediocre actor, and Seales (the other criminal) is awful and seems to have walked out of a 1930s theater with his hamming (there's no other word for it).

The direction is tight in the first half but pretty much loses it in the second. I give it points for honesty and not going for gimmicks etc, but it doesn't do the truthful storytelling very well. The director should have known his limitations and tried to go for a more entertaining angle. It'd have been nice to see more of the early Powell and his attempts at crime, and a longer set up of the post crime events and how the two come to be caught. This could have been a much better movie.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 February 1980 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Onion Field See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$9,890,597

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,890,597
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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