“You sad sorry little man!” is what the man who Sean Connery is interrogating screams at him during his interrogation and it sums up the inner turmoil than Sean Connery’s Detective Sergeant Johnson goes through in The Offence. Johnson is on the hunt for a child molester is a small English town and eventually they find a suspect and during the interrogation he kills the suspect. This all happens in the first 10 minutes and the rest of the film is through a series of flashbacks you find out his real motives on why he killed the suspect.
Sidney Lumet directed the film with his characteristic craft and no director has never been able to before or since his three police films The Offence, Serpico and finally The Prince of the City have been able to so richly portray the psyche of a cop. The Offence is a psychological mind-game between Sean Connery and Ian Bannen’s suspected child molester Kenneth Baxter and it’s use of flashbacks are inventive as any thing Welles did in Citizen Kane or Kurosawa did in Rashōmon. It’s a extraordinary build-up to a reveal that now would be too dangerous or too disturbing to even consider to include in a modern cop thriller that shows criminals and cops are not very different at all.
Sean Connery is an actor who at this point is the butt of many jokes proves in this he may not have any range in terms of his accent but certainly had a intensity that is rare in some of film’s biggest stars. It’s astonishing to think the film he did directly after The Offence is Zardoz a film that is so incomprehensible that he wears both a red jock strap and eventually in a wedding dress in the film. The Offence is a film he felt passionately about and the only reason he got it made was he made a deal with United Artists if he did another Bond film he could get 2 any films made but due to the financial failure of The Offence, UA pulled out of the deal. Connery would do some interesting work in the ’80s but he never showed how talented he was as an actor again in his career. Ian Bennen also gives a performance that is just as equal as Connery’s in it’s intensity and does the rarest of performances to be sympathetic one moment and the next makes you recoil in disgust.
The film is a oddity for Lumet who made plenty of oddities in his long and varied career, The Wiz anyone? The the rich blend of a flashback structure which was still not common in mainstream cinema, a atmospheric score that is brooding from the first moment to the last and stunning cinematography from Gerry Fisher which incorporates close-ups, elegant long takes and use of shadow and lighting that just adds to the mystery of it. Adrian Schober in The Journal of Popular Film and Television states “The Offence is an important film for study because its release coincides with the ‘rediscovery’ of family violence and child sexual abuse in the 1970s.” and you couldn’t be more right especially with the Yellow Tree investigations on going it has never seemed more fitting to watch it again and again. It may not be Lumet’s crowning achievement because that would be either Dog Day Afternoon or Network but it’s certainly in the higher reaches of the extraordinary body of work he left us.
The Blu-Ray includes about 40 minutes of interviews with crew from the film, the theatrical trailer and a length booklet which includes a interview with Lumet on The Offence.
Genre: Thriller, Drama Distributor: Eureka Entertainment BD Release Date: 20th April 2015 (UK) Rating:15 Director:Sidney Lumet Cast: Sean Connery, Ian Bennen, Trevor Howard Buy: The Offence (Blu-Ray)
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