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The Onion Field
Ted Danson's feature film debut

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Greg Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Smith (aka Jimmy Youngblood), a petty thief, as his partner in crime. Powell panics one night when the two of them are pulled over by a pair of cops for broken brake-lights. Powell decides to kidnap the cops and Smith, as always, reluctantly goes along with Powell's crazy scheme. The group drives out to a deserted onion field in Bakersfield, California and one officer is shot while the other escapes. The remainder of the film explores the na

A low-key, based-on-a-true story psychological crime movie (it may be the only recreation of a 1963 news event to feature no top ten hit of the period in the soundtrack) scripted and produced by cop auteur Joseph Wambaugh from his own novel.

The opening parallels two sets of partners, cops John Savage and Ted Danson and crooks James Woods and Franklyn Seales, but the meat of the film comes after the latter have kidnapped the former and Danson has been shot, as Savage slowly cracks up from survivor guilt and endless legal complications, while the crooks play the system to string out their trials for years. Intensely acted, especially by Savage and Woods, but a little too flat in concluding that crooks have too many rights.

Thoughtful trial movie with a disturbing edge.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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