DT Moviehouse Review: The Offence

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. I was previously doing this alphabetically but decided, since I was watching some of these anyway, to review them out of order. Today I take a look at The Offence.

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Screenplay by John Hopkins

Tagline: After 20 Years, What Detective Sergeant Johnson Has Seen And Done Is Destroying Him.

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What It’s About:
British police Detective Sergeant Johnson (Sean Connery) beats a suspected child molester, Kenneth Baxter (Ian Bannen), to death in an interrogation room and is suspended. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the truth of what pushed him over the edge.2862866

Why I Bought It:

Forget his seminal James Bond, forget Ramius in The Hunt For Red October, forget Ramirez, forget William of Baskerville, Daniel Dravot, or Malone in The Untouchables; forget the innumerable charming, memorable characters in Sean Connery’s long career – this is his finest performance, though admittedly, it’s a difficult role to warm up to.

openingThis is Rashomon in one man’s mind; a story about the varying degrees of personal truth which are uncovered as a single desperate action plays out again and again; something that in the hands of a lesser team of creators might have been a simple character defining moment of righteous outrage, but gradually becomes something more tragic and renal. The Offence is a sharp character study that distills the totality of a man’s existence into the actions of one night, and does it masterfully.

We are introduced to Johnson in the interrogation room, beating an already bloody suspect, kicking the chair out from under him as he tries to collapse into it, and letting him fall as his fellow officers burst into the room. Johnson is a man who has just leapt over a personal precipice, and for the rest of the runtime, we follow his rapid psychological descent. Johnson is a cop who has exposed himself again and again to the very worst society has to offer. He is a monster, but Connery makes him a not an entirely unsympathetic one.

In the first of three flashbacks, we backtrack to what has brought him to this dark place. When a fourteen year old girl turns up missing (the latest in a string of child abductions and molestations), Johnson seems to take the case as a personal affront, and pursues it with furious determination. As part of a police search party, he personally discovers the missing girl, Janie Edmunds (Maxine Gordon) cowering in the woods at night.

critique-the-offence-lumet6She is hysterical, and obviously in physical distress. Johnson restrains her. There’s something in Johnson’s treatment of the girl that’s unseemly. His attempt at calming her almost plays like a molestation itself. He exerts his formidable bulk to straddle her, hold her down. He clamps his hand over her mouth to stifle her shrieking, but finally softens and wraps her in his coat.

During the ambulance ride, he attempts to question her, but she begins to wail about her pain. Johnson asks the paramedic to hold off sedating her so he can question her, but the man shoots him a disapproving look and does so anyway.

Arriving at the police station, he finds an elderly female witness giving her statement. When he learns the woman saw Janie with a stranger out in the field a full four hours earlier, he flies into a rage and storms into the interrogation room, where the inspector has decided to let the suspect they’ve just picked up, Baxter, a man with muddy clothes and thin bloody scratches on his forehead, cool in the stir.

Johnson returns, dismissing the uniformed guard on duty, and the beating plays out again.

We next see the aftermath, as Johnson is suspended and sent home.

offenceDuring the drive, Lumet gives us our first visual cues as to Johnson’s mental state, as he imagines a series of heinous, unconnected crime scenes apparently spanning his career from a beat cop on up to detective. He pictures various bloody, beaten women, a man with his head through a windshield, a rotting corpse hanging from a tree, the bloody arm of a mewling toddler protruding from a crib, and a man apparently being pitched off the roof of a building (possibly by Johnson himself).

He returns home to his put upon wife (Vivien Merchant, in an understated, but noteworthy performance), and begins to drink, though he laments that each drink seems to make him more sober, and indeed, more brutally honest and self-reflective. He confesses to her his crime, then berates her for not being beautiful, for not listening, for not being something good he could come home to. Finally, when she begs him to let her in, to share his woes with her, he launches into a heinous litany of atrocities so terrible she excuses herself and vomits.

This sets Johnson off into an increasingly incoherent tirade that begins with her not being able to simply listen to him, to accusations that she would rather make love to Baxter, all while the scene of his discovery of Janie replays in his mind, yet slightly altered, where he seems to be caressing her face and ravishing her.

The police arrive at his flat to inform him that Baxter has died, and he must now be questioned by the Superintendent (Trevor Howard).

The Superintendent questions Johnson about the incident in the interrogation room, and gradually taps into his broken state of mind. Johnson is baffled as to how his superior managed to keep his personal life separate from the things he’s done and witnessed.

theoffence4The beating plays out in full now, from Johnson’s attempt at coercing Baxter into a confession, to the realization that Baxter lures him into, which ultimately sets him off. He has pursued this crime with such an extreme level of violence that it points to self-hatred.

“Nothing I have done can be one half as bad as the thoughts in your head,” says a bloodied, gloating, impish looking Baxter, who is probably guilty of the rape of Janie, though it is never discovered for certain. “Don’t beat me for thoughts in your head – things you want to do.”

Johnson, in a moment of extreme weakness, collapses against his prisoner and says miserably;

f669e-the-offence-sidney-lumet-1972-l-hod3ch“I can’t stop thinking. Help me.”

When Baxter laughs and calls him pathetic, Johnson unleashes all his pent up frustration and rage, even striking at his fellow policemen when they enter and attempt to take him into custody. Like a wild animal he shakes them off, and stands as they stare up at him, agape, the fluorescent lights flickering.

“It makes me sick what you did,” says the Superintendent in the present time. “And what you are turns my stomach.”

“Everything I’ve ever felt. Ever wanted to feel,” Johnson confesses. “I had to hit him again.”

This movie was based on a stage play by John Hopkins, and was part of the bribe Connery demanded of the studio to return as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, a role he had grown tired of by then. The studio agreed to produce two movies under a million dollars for Connery’s production company, but I believe The Offence, shot for about 385,000 pounds, so underperformed that the studio reneged.

tumblr_p5nbvmxLvx1vei2veo3_1280Lumet directs everything with minimum interference, lending the whole production that stark, 70’s verite style, well-suited to the subject matter. The flashbacks to the titular offence seem to be depicted in steadily clearer focus though, as the initial sequence plays out against some kind of soft spot on the lens, or a superimposition of a ceiling light that produces a weird, mersmeric, unfocused effect.

As I said, the thing really that makes The Offence worth seeing is Connery’s total commitment to the engrossing subject matter. This is not his typical movie star fare, but for my money, it’s his greatest performance in a lifetime of great performances.

Best Dialogue/Line:

“All those bodies. Bodies stinking swollen black putrid with the smell of death. Shattered, splintered bones. Like filthy swirling maggots in my mind. Eating my mind.”

Best Scene:

critique-the-offence-lumet17

In my opinion, the scene from which the above dialogue is culled; that somber, brutal scene where Johnson tries to force an emotional connection with his wife. Both actors are stellar in it, and it’s actually more cringe inducing than any of the physical violence depicted in the rest of the movie.

Would I Buy It Again:
It’s dark stuff, and not something I watch often, but it’s worth seeing Connery in a rare, nuanced performance, so yes.

DT Moviehouse

I’ve decided to institute a new (ir)regular feature here on Delirium Tremens.

I watch a lot of movies. A LOT.

But I don’t take home everything I’ve seen. For me to pay for a movie again past the initial theatrical viewing or rental, that movie has really got to speak to me on some level that will induce me to not only want to revisit it at my leisure, but to send a monetary message to the creators that I appreciated their work (altough in taking stock of what I have, there are a couple titles I was given as gifts that I haven’t even watched yet!).

That said, I own something over two hundred movies, give or take. So yeah, lots of appreciation there.

In part to give me something more to do on this blog than just plug my work, and in part to justify my owning all these dang DVD’s and Blu-Rays, I’m going to go through my collection alphabetically and start revisiting and reviewing them here.

I’m no film critic. At least, no more than anybody else. I went to film school yeah, but I promise I’ll keep the mise en scene and chiaroscuro comments to a minimum. I’ve got opinions, and I’ve got memories of the movies on this list, and I’ll share them. That’s it. Oh and there’ll probably be spoilers. So I’m telling you now ‘cause I don’t intend to write it over every single review. Most of these are a couple years old anyway, or will be by the time I get to ‘em.

Here’s the list, which I’ll update if I make new purchases. I also intend to replace the reviewed titles with hyperlinks to the reviews as I write them for ease of reference (if I can figure out how to do that). This should take me a while to get through. No promises as to regularity, but eventually, one day, I’ll get to the end. Maybe it’ll even be fun.

Anyway, here’s the list of my collection. Don’t expect to see too many scathing reviews here. Like I said, I don’t buy stuff I don’t like, and anyway I don’t have the time or energy to complain about things I don’t like. Better to celebrate things I do, right? Right.

As always, feel free to comment, if you’re so inclined.

  • 8 Mile
  • 300
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • The Agony And The Ecstacy
  • Alien
  • Aliens
  • The Apostle
  • At The Circus
  • Atlantis: The Los Empire
  • Attack The Block
  • Back To The Future
  • Back To The Future II
  • Back To The Future III
  • Bad Company
  • Batman Begins
  • The Beast Must Die
  • Ben-Hur
  • Beneath The Planet Of The Apes
  • Better Off Dead
  • Big Trouble In Little China
  • The Black Swan
  • Blade
  • The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
  • The Blood of Heroes
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • The Brides Of Dracula
  • Bronco Billy
  • Buffalo Soldiers
  • A Bullet For The General
  • Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
  • Cabin In The Woods
  • The Call of Cthulhu
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Captain Blood
  • The Car
  • Casino Royale
  • Chato’s Land
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The WardrobeThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe
  • Cimarron
  • Clash Of The Titans
  • Cloverfield
  • Conan The Barbarian
  • Conquest of The Planet of The Apes
  • Constantine
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Crank
  • Cross Of Iron
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Curse Of The Demon (aka Night Of The Demon)
  • Cyrano De Bergerac
  • Daimajin/Wrath of Daimajin
  • Dances With Wolves
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Daredevil
  • The Dark Crystal
  • A Day At The Races
  • Dead Man
  • The Deadpool
  • Destry Rides Again
  • Diamonds Are Forever
  • Die Another Day
  • Die Hard
  • Dillinger
  • Dirty Harry
  • Django Unchained
  • Dog Soldiers
  • Down With Love
  • Dr. No
  • Dragonslayer
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • The Enforcer
  • Enter The Dragon
  • Escape From New York
  • Escape From The Planet Of The Apes
  • E.T. The Extraterrestrial
  • Ever After
  • The Ewok Movies (Caravan of Courage/Battle For Endor)
  • Excalibur
  • The Far Country
  • Fiend Without A Face
  • The Fighting Kentuckian
  • First Blood
  • A Fistful of Dollars
  • Flag Of Iron
  • Flight Of The Phoenix
  • For A Few Dollars More
  • Frailty
  • From Russia With Love
  • Gamera 3: Revenge Of Iris
  • Gattaca
  • Glory
  • Godzilla vs. Biollante
  • Godzilla vs Hedorah
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
  • Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah
  • Godzilla vs. Mothra:BattleFor Earth
  • Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla
  • Godzilla vs. Destroyah
  • Godzilla 2000
  • Godzilla Mothra and King Gihodrah: Giant Monster All Out Attack
  • Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
  • Godzilla Tokyo SOS
  • GoldenEye
  • Goldfinger
  • The Good The Bad And The Ugly
  • The Goonies
  • Go West
  • The Great Santini
  • The Great Silence
  • The Green Hornet
  • Green Lantern
  • Gremlins
  • Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan The Lord Of The Apes
  • Gunga Din
  • Gymkata
  • Halloween III
  • Hamlet (Mel Gibson)
  • Happy Accidents
  • The Haunting
  • Heat
  • Hell Is For Heroes
  • The Hidden Fortress
  • The Hired Hand
  • Hombre
  • Hondo
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Hulk
  • I Declare War
  • Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull
  • Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
  • Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom
  • In Harm’s Way
  • Insomnia
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2
  • Iron Man 3
  • It’s Always Fair Weather
  • I Was A Teenage Frankenstein
  • I Was A Teenage Werewolf
  • Jarhead
  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • John Carter of Mars
  • The Jungle Book (Sabu)
  • The Karate Kid
  • The Killing
  • King Arthur
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  • Krull
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Kwaidan
  • LA Confidential
  • Ladyhawke
  • Lair Of The White Worm
  • The Last Detail
  • The Last Starfighter
  • The Last Man On Earth
  • The Last Temptation Of Christ
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • A League Of Their Own
  • Legend
  • Legend of The Drunken Master
  • Leon The Professional
  • Lethal Weapon
  • License To Kill
  • The Life And Times of Judge Roy Bean
  • Live And Let Die
  • The Living Daylights
  • Lone Wolf And Cub: Sword Of Vengeance
  • Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart At The River Styx
  • Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons
  • The Long Good Friday
  • The Long Riders
  • The Lord Of The Rings (Ralph Bakshi)
  • The Lost Weekend
  • Mad Max
  • Magnum Force
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • The Man From Earth
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • The Man With The Golden Gun
  • The Mark Of Zorro
  • Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World
  • Mars Attacks
  • Miami Blues
  • The Missing
  • Monty Python And The Holy Grail
  • Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life
  • Mystery Men
  • The Naked Prey
  • Near Dark
  • Nevada Smith
  • A Night At The Opera
  • A Night In Casablanca
  • Night of The Hunter
  • Observe And Report
  • The Offence
  • Office Space
  • Once Upon A Time In The West
  • On The Waterfront
  • Open Range
  • The Others
  • Outland
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Patton
  • Peter Pan
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl
  • Planet Of The Apes
  • Platoon
  • Popeye
  • Predator
  • The Princess Bride
  • Prometheus
  • The Proposition
  • The Punisher
  • The Quiet Man
  • Raging Bull
  • Rambo (IV)
  • Ravenous
  • Real Steel
  • Rear Window
  • The Rebirth of Mothra (1 and 2)
  • Red River
  • Reign of Fire
  • The Return of The 5 Deadly Venoms
  • Ride With The Devil
  • Rio Bravo
  • Rio Grande
  • Robin And The 7 Hoods
  • Robocop
  • The Rocketeer
  • Rocky II
  • Rocky III
  • Rocky IV
  • Room Service
  • Rope
  • Run Ronnie Run
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Scarface (Howard Hawks)
  • The Searchers
  • Se7en
  • The Seven Ups
  • Shaft’s Big Score
  • Shaolin Soccer
  • Shaun Of The Dead
  • She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
  • The Shootist
  • Signs
  • The Sixth Sense
  • Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Sound Of Music
  • Spartacus
  • Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man 2
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Stander
  • Stardust
  • Star Trek The Motion Picture
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of The Jedi
  • State of Grace
  • The Sting
  • Strangers On A Train
  • Sudden Impact
  • Superman The Movie
  • Superman II
  • Sword Of Doom
  • The Ten Commandments
  • Thief
  • Thief Of Bagdad
  • The Third Man
  • The Thirteenth Warrior
  • Thunderball
  • The Time Machine
  • Touch Of Evil
  • Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
  • True Grit (original)
  • Unforgiven
  • The Untouchables
  • Wall-E
  • Warlock
  • The Warriors
  • The War Of The Worlds
  • Whale Rider
  • Where Eagles Dare
  • White Zombie
  • The Whole Wide World
  • The Wicker Man
  • The Wild Bunch
  • Winchester ’73
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • The Wolfman
  • The Woman In Black
  • Wyatt Earp
  • X2: X-Men United
  • X3: The Last Stand
  • X-Men
  • X-Men: First Class
  • The Yakuza
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Young Guns
  • The Young Lions