Masters of Cinema Blu-ray Review: The Offence
"Sean Connery excels in a dark, unforgiving psychological drama"
1972's The Offence
is the latest movie to get the re-release treatment for Eukera Entertainment's Masters of Cinema series. A dark psychological drama that was a pet project for its star Sean Connery.
Connery stars as Detective Sergeant Johnson, a veteran of 20 years in the police who snaps after investigating a sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl. He brutally beats a suspect while interviewing him. Suspended from his position, he is forced to reflected on the recent case, the horrific crimes he has witnessed and the psychological strain it has had on him.
When Connery agreed to reprise the role of James Bond for Diamonds Are Forever,
United Artists agreed to back two movies of his choosing. The Offence
was the first and the second was going to be an adaptation of Macbeth
, but that was cancelled because The Offence
did not make a profit for nine years and Roman Polanski was making his own version of Macbeth
Connery was clearly committed to his role as Johnson and it was one of his best performances in his long career, a dark, mesmerizing character in mental anguish as one act released a wave of pain. There is a large weight on Johnson's shoulders as all these events come out. Johnson starts off as a jaded cop who has seen it all, but is still a professional, attempting to comfort the victim, yet becomes desperate to solve the case. During the first act Johnson's becomes aggressive, yelling at a witness making a statement and clashing with his fellow detectives when they have a suspect and Johnson is convinced of his guilt.
After the investigation and the assault, the movie's origins as a play become evident, being set in three tight locations, his flat, an interview room and the questioning of the suspect. Johnson explores his psychological pains, finally telling his wife (Vivien Merchant) about what he has witnessed; being unable to cope, his conversions with Detective Superintendent Cartwright (Trevor Howard) as he runs an internal affairs investigation. He talks about how they deal with the divide between his personal and professional life and the mind games that Johnson and the Suspect, Kenneth Baxter (Ian Bannen) play with each other. As the movie progresses we get to learn more and more about Johnson's psyche, seeing inside his head, seeing that he is a broken man, having violent thoughts and possibly envying people who were able to live out their violent fantasies or being able to live normal lives.
John Hopkins adapted his own play, This Story of Yours,
which was directed by American filmmaker Sidney Lumet - known for movies likes 12 Angry Men
and Dog Day Afternoon
. Lumet obviously has a talent for adapting plays, 12 Angry Men
often being regarded as one of his finest movies. The Offence
most resembles Serpico
: both are movies about cops on the edge, Johnson because everything he has witnessed, Serpico being isolated by his corrupt colleagues. Both movies share a gritty aesthetic, being set in unglamorous areas of the setting, a small English town or New York City, both in ugly concrete environments and both movies confront the theme of violent crimes. The Offence
is at times harrowing as we see the aftermath of these brutal crimes, particularly the pain and terror the young girl suffers when she is found in the wasteland.
is told in a non-linear narrative, events being out of order, starting with Johnson being found beating up the suspect and ends with Johnson's interrogation of Baxter. The movie keeps flashing back to events, both within the timeline of the movie and to events in Johnson's past. One great sequence is when Johnson is driving home at night in the rain and he thinks back to all the crimes he has witnessed, rapes, murders and suicides, all horrifically grizzly with the events cutting more quickly to intensify the horror.
The first half of The Offence
is a great looking movie, having a dark and gritty look that many movies from the 70s had. There is a deliberate use of long takes and slow tracking shots to add an imposing nature and dread to the proceedings particularly when the 12-year-old victim is walking home from school, across a muddy path and into a wasteland where we know something terrible is about to happen. The Offence
is set in a non-descript English town, filled with starkly unattractive buildings from the era. When The Offence
moves to the tight environments the long takes allow the cast to have uninterrupted performances as they are given heavy material. But it is at this point where The Offence
becomes visually less appealing.
Sean Connery was in top form for The Offence
and it is easily one of his best performances in his long career as he perfectly plays this damaged man. The Offence
is a dark, unflinching psychological drama that serves as an interesting companion piece to Serpico
. But this movie is very much a hard-hitting drama, do not expect a police procedural if that is what you want.
The Blu-ray comes with four short interviews including with stage director of the original play Christopher Morahan and composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle. The Blu-ray also includes an alternative soundtrack and the theatrical trailer. There is a 32 page booklet with an essay by film critic Mike Sutton and an archive interview with Sidney Lumet.