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Offence, The (1973)

Detective Sergeant Johnson (Sean Connery) has been with the British Police Force for 20 years.

In that time, the countless murders, rapes and other serious crimes he has had to investigate have left a mark on him and the anger and aggression he has suppressed for years finally surfaces when interviewing Kenneth Baxter (Ian Bannen), a suspect who Johnson believes is the child molester responsible for a series of brutal attacks on young girls.

Throughout the interview, Johnson brutally beats Baxter in a harrowing, tragic face-off that leads to a long, dark night of the soul in which all the horrors, missteps and dismembered bodies Johnson has psychically stockpiled during his time on the force coalesce into a grisly bill that he has no hope of meeting.

Johnson ends up beating Baxter to death and the film then examines what drove the detective to do it, through individual scenes with his wife, Maureen (Vivien Merchant) and Cartwright (Trevor Howard), the internal affairs officer investigating the beating.

The final third of the film takes us step by step through the interrogation, as Baxter turns the psychological tables on Johnson, making the detective see exactly the sort of animal he has become as a result of two decades of dealing unrelentingly with violence and death.

American filmmaker Sidney Lumet brought a keen outsider’s eye to this deliriously depressing slab of British noir and Sean Connery is at his cruel, bullying best as the immoral detective.

The film displeased United Artists – who funded it as a thank you to Connery for wigging his way through the previous year’s Diamonds Are Forever and who didn’t want 007 to be viewed as any more of a pitiless shitbag than strictly necessary.

The Offence went unreleased in many countries but its outstanding quality remains undeniable. As does its capacity to unsettle. It’s a fine masterpiece by a masterful director.

Detective Sergeant Johnson
Sean Connery
Lieutenant Cartwright, Detective Superintendent
Trevor Howard
Maureen Johnson
Vivien Merchant
Kenneth Baxter
Ian Bannen
Detective Inspector Cameron
Peter Bowles
Frank Jessard
Derek Newark
Lawson
Ronald Radd
Panton
John Hallam
Garrett
Richard Moore
Hill
Anthony Sagar
Janie Edmonds, the Raped Girl
Maxine Gordon
Woman on Common
Hilda Fenemore
Woman at School
Rhoda Lewis
Child at School
Cynthia Lund
Lambert
Howard Goorney

Director
Sidney Lumet

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