In Review: The Offence (1972) on DVD

by Daniel Goodwin on 21/04/2015

the offence

Sidney Lumet’s The Offence (1972) finally gets a release from Eureka this month as part of their Masters Of Cinema series. This bleak, Berkshire set thriller, based on the 1968 play The Story Of Yours by John Hopkins, boasts a terrifying lead performance from Sean Connery as a tormented police detective hunting down a child molester. Lumet’s thriller is a disjointed, psychological drama blending surreal, nightmare sequences with a rugged realism but appears to sacrifice plot progression to establish atmosphere and deepen characters.

A fresh from Bond Connery (minus his toupee for the first time), reunites with Sidney Lumet following The Anderson Tapes (1971) to portray troubled cop Johnson as an imposing, malevolent presence, masking a fractured psyche. Johnson’s true nature unravels as the story evolves but the plot meanders midway and is not as engrossing as the performances. Lumet presents a haunted Bracknell/ Berkshire of blurred neon, cracked concrete, rain soaked highways and cobbled back streets that evokes dank naturalism as a vital character.

The investigation evolves into a tightly focused character study but a roaming second act lacks much needed twists. Despite this, Lumet effectively conveys unease along with a crushing sense of dread, complimented by Harrison Birtwhistle’s bewildering score and disorientating flashbacks. The Offence often brings to mind the works of directors Ken Loach, Lenny Abrahamson and Andrea Arnold with its abstinent atmosphere, ultimately giving one an idea of what a big screen version of The Bill would be like if directed by Ben Wheatley.

Compelling characters and performances add realism to the feverish delve into a cracked and broken community. Ian Bannen offers solid support as main suspect Baxter along with Trevor Howard (Superintendant Cartwright) and Peter Bowles (Detective Cameron) but Vivien Merchant is exceptionally riveting in the role of Johnson’s distressed wife Maureen. With a compelling, one room set final act, The Offence feels like a mood piece more than a complex thriller but is an interesting work all the same.

Extras: Christopher Morshan (director of play, The Story of Yours) discusses the origins of the story while Assistant Art Director Chris Burke reminisces on the production and working with Sidney Lumet. Costume Designer Evangeline Harrison tells amusing tales about times with Sean Connery and talks fondly of the supporting cast.

Daniel has awarded The Offence on DVD three Torches of Truth

three torches

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