The Offence Reviews
By the end of the Sixties, Connery had broken away from the 007 franchise and was free to pick and choose the parts he wanted to play, yet he returned to the fold for Diamonds Are Forever just four years after quitting. Why? Well, the obvious answer would be: for the money. And it's true, he did squeeze a fortune out of United Artists - an estimated $15.9 million, adjusted for inflation. But perhaps the clincher was United Artists' promise to finance two modestly budgeted projects of Connery's own choosing. The second of these, a proposed adaptation of Macbeth, was thwarted by the release of the Roman Polanski version and never went into production, but Connery's other pet project, an adaptation of a more recent play, John Hopkins' This Story of Yours, became Sidney Lumet's The Offence.
In addition to its curiosity value as a small film without which a much bigger picture might never have been made, The Offence is a superb movie in its own right and deserves to be better known. I would actually rate this as my second favourite of Lumet's films - after Dog Day Afternoon, in case you're interested - and Connery's performance in it as being among his finest work. He plays Detective Sergeant Johnson, a burned-out policeman obsessively hunting a child molester in a ghastly unspecified New Town. In the aftermath of the latest attack, a dishevelled and agitated man, played by Ian Bannen, is brought in for questioning. Johnson is convinced of the man's guilt and decides to extract a speedy confession, with tragic consequences.
Lumet is regarded as an actors' director, not really known for possessing an elaborate style, but with the fractured narrative, the flashes back and forth in time, the slow motion and dream sequences, he really pulls out all the stops here to make the material as cinematic as possible. The way in which Johnson is haunted, not so much by the terrible things he has witnessed but by his imaginative ability to see the world through his quarry's eyes - the very thing that makes him good at his job - prefigures Michael Mann's Manhunter by well over a decade. The Offence also bears interesting comparison with another film of 1972, coincidentally also made in England by an American and adapted from a stage play, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Sleuth. Both of these pictures centre on a duel to the death in which, perversely, it is the winner who forfeits his life.
This is perhaps his least known but is also one of his best containing as it does a fanastic central performance from Connery that deserves to be better known.
Connery plays Sgt Johnson a man who has seen far too much during his police career and whos demons race around in his head while trying to catch a suspected child molester.
During the interview of the suspect ,his rage bolis over and he kills the man in his custody.
What follows is Connerys breakdown as he loses it with his wife and then an Inspector called in to review the case.
Lumet places the murder towards the end of the film allowing Connery and Ian Bannen as the suspect to put on an acting masterclass as each one plays off against the other revaling both their flaws in a way that only Lumet could do with actors.
Thats not to say the film is a 2 hander we also get great performances from Trevor Howard as the inspector and Vivien Merchant as Connerys downtroden and confused wife.
Lumet opens up writer John Hopkins play to masterful effect setting the film in one of the gleaming newtowns of the 60s which has the threat of violence hanging around its desolate streets.
The director uses all the tools in his locker to create quite possibly one of the most underated gems of the 70s and at the same time he gets a career best performance from Connery.
Powerful and Brilliant stuff this still has the power to disturb.