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The Onion Field

The Onion Field (1979)

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No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 2

audience

65

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 1,903

My Rating

Movie Info

Joseph Wambaugh's The Onion Field is based on an actual 1963 case. L.A. plainclothesmen Karl Hattinger (John Savage) and Ian Campbell (Ted Danson) routinely investigate a pair of suspicious types, Greg Powell (James Woods) and Jimmy Smith (Franklin Seales). Unexpectedly, Powell pulls a gun on the cops, then forces them into a deserted onion field, where he kills Campbell in cold blood. Hattinger manages to escape, and through his eyewitness account, Powell and Smith are arrested. But that is not

R,

Drama

Sep 17, 2002

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All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (10) | Rotten (2) | DVD (11)

The Onion Field is a serious and most uncompromising movie. It lacks, however, the sort of disciplined craft that might have made it a powerful and affecting one.

September 10, 2011 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

James Woods as the near-psychotic Powell is chillingly effective, creating a flakiness in the character that exudes the danger of a live wire near a puddle.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's the usual heavy Wambaugh brew: police procedure closely observed without a trace of romanticism, suggesting simply that life in the force is psychological hell.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is generally crisp and at times exciting, but it's also full of incidents that are only sketchily explained, and minus the all-important narrative thread that might have provided a clear point of view.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Brutal, even sordid, but compulsive viewing.

September 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Good acting and careful direction by Becker make it worth seeing, but the violence and the language may be too graphic for some tastes.

September 10, 2011 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Ranks among the best crime films of the late 1970s...and that puts the flick among some rather impressive company.

November 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Thoughtful trial movie with a disturbing edge.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Onion Field

A fantastic crime/prison movie, the story is really incredible, and the actors are great. The only problem is that it's a little too long. Other than that I loved it.
January 7, 2011
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

"The Onion Field" features a complex narrative and well-developed characters, but ultimately, it never goes anywhere. The scenes that are meant to provoke emotion fall flat, the final twenty minutes or so are unnecessary, and the pacing is slow and unbalanced. James Woods delivers a strong performance, but that's about it. There's nothing noteworthy about this film other than that.
January 16, 2012
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

    1. Karl Hattinger: [while in the onion field seeing his partner crying] That's the onions. It makes you eyes water.
    2. Greg Powell: Don't waste bullets!
    – Submitted by rick b (2 years ago)
    1. Karl Hattinger: At least you're tall enough to carry it. Married life's making me feel like an avocado with feet.
    2. 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.
    3. LAPD Captain: Any man who gives up his gun to some punk is a coward. Any man who does can kiss his badge goodbye, if I can help it. You're policemen. Put your trust in God.
    4. District Attorney Phil Halpin: Let 'em walk. If only I could send some lawyers and judges to the gas chamber.
    – Submitted by rick b (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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