Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Onion Field (1979)

James Woods Film Fest Movie #6

Synopsis: James Woods portrays a fast-talking, completely amoral scumbag who, …. Oh wait, that describes every James Woods movie! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A searing adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s chilling best-seller. The true story is about two Los Angeles cops who are kidnapped and murdered by two petty crooks One of the officers is murdered in a deserted onion field between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, if you kidnap somebody in the United States, the death penalty doesn’t apply until you kill your hostage. Hey, that’s good to know!  

Really?: The Onion Field is based upon a real-life incident, so it might not be fair to critique the movie’s credibility, but I had a hard time believing Jimmy Youngblood would need to apologize to Greg Powell (and then resort to fellatio) in order to get him to agree to a courtroom strategy that would save both of them from the electric chair. 

Rating: The Onion Field isn’t a fun movie by any stretch, but it’s a good one. The film is an indictment of both America’s revolving-door justice system, and the LAPD’s incredible insensitivity towards one of its own. Interestingly, the murder of Detective Campbell (Ted Danson) merely marks the end of the first act, as the rest of the film deals with Greg and Jimmy trying to stay alive in prison, and the surviving officer’s attempts to get on with his life in spite of some serious survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder. Watch for Christopher Lloyd in a small, but memorable part as the jailhouse legal expert. 8.5/10 stars.

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