The Onion Field (1979)
Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 12
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 2
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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 2
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 1,895
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
Sep 21, 1979 Wide
Sep 17, 2002
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Good acting and careful direction by Becker make it worth seeing, but the violence and the language may be too graphic for some tastes.
Ranks among the best crime films of the late 1970s...and that puts the flick among some rather impressive company.
- Karl Hattinger: [while in the onion field seeing his partner crying] That's the onions. It makes you eyes water.
- Greg Powell: Don't waste bullets!
- Karl Hattinger: At least you're tall enough to carry it. Married life's making me feel like an avocado with feet.
- 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.
- 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.
- District Attorney Phil Halpin: Let 'em walk. If only I could send some lawyers and judges to the gas chamber.
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