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Film Studies 101
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
John Savage
James Woods
Franklyn Seales
Ted Danson.
Directors
Harold Becker.
Screenwriters
Joseph Wambaugh.
Running Time
122 minutes

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The Onion Field
Ted Danson's feature film debut


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Plot
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


Review
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.


Verdict
Thoughtful trial movie with a disturbing edge.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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