Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


THE ONION FIELD (1979). Director: Harold Becker

In 1963 hoods Gregory Powell (James Woods) and Jimmy Smith (Franklin Seales) are stopped by cops James Campbell (Ted Danson) and Karl Hettinger (John Savage) but the hoods turn the tables and drive the policemen to an onion field. There Powell kills Campbell, but Hettinger manages to escape. [Hettinger turned over his gun after Powell threatened to shoot Campbell, but one cop theorizes that "only a coward lets a punk get his gun away from him."] The rest of the film details the trial, the emotional aftermath for Hettinger, and so on, but there are too many under-developed characters and except for the moving final scene the film keeps the viewer at a emotional distance. This is not only due to Joseph Wambaugh's unsatisfactory script (based on his book), but Harold Becker's perfunctory direction, and actors who are good but never seem to quite get a handle on their characters. The one exception is Franklin Seales, who is very vivid as the confused, frightened Jimmy. The picture holds the attention at first but meanders and goes into too many different directions without resolution.
Verdict: Disappointing, but some good acting. **1/2.

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