The New Centurions Reviews
Stacey Keach plays Roy Fehler, the rookie cop who is partnered with the veteran Officer Kilvinski, played masterfully by George C. Scott. Fehler is working as a cop while he puts himself through college though not after long he's dropped his classes and has taken quite a liking to police work. Eventually the job takes its toll on Fehler, both physically and emotionally.
On the surface The New Centurions looks like many other cop stories - the idealistic rookie teamed with the grizzled veteran - but the relationship on screen isn't typical; never at any point do I recall George C. Scott saying, "I'm too old for this shit." There are many instances that feel like clichéd trappings that are soon destroyed with unexpected developments. Whether the characters on the screen or the audience, the film explicitly reminds you that complacency can have deadly consequences.
In one key scene, Kilvinski takes a stand against a slumlord. He takes the side of a group of illegal immigrants over the word of the slumlord because the immigrants are honest, hard-working people unlike the slumlord. If this scene were to play out on an episode of Dragnet or Adam-12, the immigrants would likely be detained and the slumlord given a stern talking-to. Kilvinski has his defined vision of right and wrong. He doesn't allow "it's the law" to dictate his morality like a Joe Friday. It is moments like this that elevate The New Centurions above many other police dramas.
Based upon the novel by former LAPD officer Joseph Wambaugh, the script by Stirling Silliphant* (In the Heat of the Night) allows the characters to grow on screen and never holds up the progression of the story. The story wisely avoids any kind of centralized villain. There's no big drug ring to break up, no kingpin to take down. Instead the writers and director Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green) allow the individual situations add up to wear on the characters as a whole. That setup allows the story to explore various societal issues like immigration, prostitution, race relations, drug use, and more without feeling contrived. The New Centurions is a classic cop drama that has yet to get its just praise outside of its greatest admirers within the LAPD.
*Not to be confused with the Dr. Seuss character.
This police thriller is a prime example of how good Fleischer could really be.
George C Scott plays Sgt Andy Kilvinski a been there see it LA cop who takes his rooky partner played by Stacy keach under his wing as we follow the rookies progress from wet behind the ears to almost burnt out hack.
The film really works when dealing with the sometimes mundane parts of poilce work interspersed with violence and soemtimes humour.
Keach is excellent as the eager to please rookie who begins to slowly turn into his mentor with a wrecked marriage and a serious booze problem .
The film is pretty hard hitting too with a very downbeat ending and lots of gloom as well in the latter stages as Kilvinski struggles to come to terms with the fact he is a has been ex cop with no life to speak of and only one way out of his mundane life.
Fleishcer is juggling lots of balls here and sometimes he drops a couple but in the main this is another winner from a director whos work is sorley neglected in my humble opinion.
It has a very realistic feel that kinda shows what it it's really like to be a cop.
The score is very good and really has a 70's feel to it.
It is also very well acted, George C. Scott is very subdued in this and there is one scene that shows actors how to say one thing and really convey something else.
If you are a fan of 70's styled cop films/tv you'll love it!
A believable, gritty and moving film. Richard Fleischer never made a finer movie. And I always thought that "The French Connection" was the best cop movie ever made....
Realistically, this film most likely predates most things I've seen that make it feel familiar, so that's not exactly a reasonable detriment to hold against it.