Something Like the Truth
Director Sidney Lumet and actor Sean Connery collaborated a number of times on some interesting and diverse projects. Lumet would be the filmmaker to which Connery would return most often, and his trust in Lumet’s abilities is best exemplified by the director being invited to helm this harrowing tale of brutality and psychological breakdown. The territory wasn’t entirely new for both men. In 1965 Connery appeared in Lumet’s sadistic war drama The Hill, and Lumet would return to the theme of police corruption in the Al Pacino vehicle Serpico (1973). The Offence however is far more interesting than either of these films. It was made at a time when Connery had finally severed his ties with the James Bond franchise, in fact this film directly followed Diamonds are Forever (1971). It seems interesting to me that Connery would pursue a role that explores a crisis in identity and motivation due to exhaustion and mental fragmentation at a time when his own iconic screen image was in a state of flux. The Offence is without a doubt a self-conscious attempt on the part of Connery to distance himself from the role for which he would forever be known. To be fair to Connery he is a revelation here. His Detective Sergeant Jonhson is a very disturbing creation indeed. Early in the film we see him treat his colleagues with contempt, bully his way through a crime scene and show a singular lack of patience and empathy for his fellow human being. This is a police officer on the edge, and an ineffectual investigation into a series of horrendous child molestations is the event which tips him over the edge.
Unfortunately the death of Baxter at the vicious fists of Johnson does not relieve Johnson of his mental burden. In a perverse way it makes him more of a criminal than Baxter, who after all is only a suspect. The most disturbing aspect of this film is that we are never allowed to know if Johnson’s suspicions are accurate. Few films dealing with police corruption conduct their journey’s within the mind of the protagonist, and few actors would have agreed so readily to such a vulnerable role. For this Sean Connery deserves enormous credit. Lumet’s direction struggles against the theatrical nature of the story, but the structural audacity and the nightmarish rainy locations add much atmosphere. Some may criticise The Offence for being talky, they would be justified in this, but the minds under discussion are fascinating. The film does lack a certain emotional pathos, and the hard hearted, bleak, and depressing nature of the narrative made this a very hard sell which ultimately failed to find an audience.
© Shaun Anderson 2011