The Offence

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The Offence
Poster of the movie The Offence.jpg
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Denis O'Dell
Written by John Hopkins
Starring Sean Connery
Trevor Howard
Vivien Merchant
Ian Bannen
Peter Bowles
Derek Newark
Ronald Radd
Music by Harrison Birtwistle
Cinematography Gerry Fisher
Editing by John Victor-Smith
Distributed by United Artists (theatrical release)
Release dates 1973[1]
Running time 112 min.
Country UK
Language English
Budget $900,000[1]

The Offence is a 1972 British drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, based upon the 1968 stage play This Story of Yours by John Hopkins. It stars Sean Connery as police detective Johnson, who kills suspected child molester Kenneth Baxter (Ian Bannen) while interrogating him. The film explores Johnson's varied, often aggressive attempts at rationalizing what he did, revealing his true motives for killing the suspect in a series of flashbacks. Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant appear in major supporting roles.

Plot summary[edit]

Detective-Sergeant Johnson (Connery) has been a police officer for 20 years, and is deeply affected by the murders, rapes, and other violent crimes he has investigated.

His anger surfaces while interrogating Kenneth Baxter (Bannen), who is suspected of raping a young girl; by the end of the interrogation, Johnson has beaten him to death. Johnson is suspended and returns home for the night, and gets into a violent argument with his wife, Maureen (Vivien Merchant).

The following day, Johnson is interrogated by Detective Superintendent Cartwright (Trevor Howard), and during the long interrogation flashbacks show the events during the night when Johnson killed Baxter.

The flashbacks portray Baxter — whose guilt or innocence is left ambiguous — taunting Johnson during the interrogation, insinuating that he secretly wanted to commit the sort of sex crimes he investigated. Johnson at first flies into a rage and strikes Baxter, but he eventually admits that he does indeed harbour obsessive fantasies of murder and rape, and that he is losing his mind under the strain. He then tearfully begs Baxter to help him. When Baxter recoils from him in disgust, Johnson snaps and kills him.

The film ends with another flashback, this time of Johnson attacking the police officers who pulled him off Baxter, and muttering, " God..." as he realizes what he has done.



When Connery agreed to return as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, United Artists pledged to back two of Connery's film projects of his own free choosing, including free choice for his own role, provided they would be costing $2 million or less. The Offence, made under the working title of Something Like the Truth due to Connery's choice of Hopkins' script, was shot in March and April 1972 in and around Bracknell, Berkshire (scenes were shot in the Wildridings area and also Easthampstead's Point Royal) with a budget of $900,000.[1] The action sequences of the physical interaction between Connery and Bannen were designed by an uncredited Bob Simmons, who had designed similar action scenes for the Bond films.[2] It is the only film that Sir Harrison Birtwistle has written music for.

United Artists finally released The Offence in 1973. It was a commercial failure and did not yield a profit for nine years,[1] even going unreleased in several markets, including France, where it did not premiere until 2007. United Artists pulled out of the deal and the next project, a film version of Macbeth that Connery was to direct, was scotched by Roman Polanski's adaptation.

DVD releases[edit]

In 2004, MGM UK released a DVD of the film which contained no extras or trailers. Simultaneous releases from MGM were made in other PAL format countries, such as Germany and Australia. On October 20, 2008, the film was again released on DVD in the UK by Optimum Releasing, again without extras or trailers. A French Region 2 DVD, preserving the film's original ratio of 1:1.66, became available in 2009. In April 2010, MGM put the film out on a U.S. DVD-R "on demand" for the first time. It is available as an exclusive from and contains no extras.


"A fascinating look at the human psyche based on Z Cars scriptwriter John Hopkins acclaimed stage play This Story of Yours, The Offence is an expertly crafted study of evil and human weakness that demands to be watched in its entirety. [...] it still packs quite a punch and features compelling performances from both Sean Connery and Ian Bannen."


"Less well-known than his other British pictures (The Hill, The Deadly Affair, Murder on the Orient Express), this unrelentingly somber policier inaugurates a newfound force in Lumet’s work. The story, adapted by John Hopkins from his play, abounds in stylistic tics (recurring visual motifs, various events replayed several times, color coding), but the flashiness that pockmarked much of the director’s earlier work has been pruned to hushed, concentrated intensity. Likewise, the movie looks ahead to the bathed-in-gray themes of Lumet’s later studies of law & order ambivalence -- Connery’s pressure-cooker copper, plagued with lurid images palpitating inside his brain, is the template for the protagonists of Serpico, Prince of the City and Q & A. Connery pinpoints some fantastic shadings of bullying, dissatisfaction and self-disgust, matched by Bannen’s peerless razzing — the culminating pounding is less liberating purgation than guilt transference, christened by Bannen’s bloodied leer."

—Fernando F. Croce, Cinepassion

"The notion of a 'good cop' becoming corrupted by the day to day horrors of his job is nothing new, but it plays out in a way that is completely engrossing, even edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. [...] Ultimately Lumet is less concerned with constructing a whodunit than he is in exploring the dynamic between these two seemingly disparate men, who become more and more alike as their interrogation plays out. [...] The end result is Connery's realization (unspoken) that he is, in fact, of the same 'species' as the people he has so bitterly denounced throughout the film. [...] His moment of clarity is not a moment of 'redemption' so much as it is an acceptance of personal guilt.
The central performances are absolutely brilliant. Connery has never been better, even if he did win an Academy Award for The Untouchables (1987). [...] had this film been better received in 1972, his performance would have garnered him an Oscar nomination. Bannen takes a character that, on the printed page, may have seemed completely unsavory and makes him oddly likable. [...] Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant also do superb work in their smaller roles [...].
An absolutely fantastic film, The Offence deserves to be far better known and revered. Few films have been as successful at being so ambiguous as well as so dialogue-heavy."

—DVD Maniacs

"The Offence entertains, but ultimately rejects, the ‘dirty old man’ stereotype, opting for a far more paranoid McCarthyesque outlook where the pedophile is not reassuringly 'other' but one of us. Although released in 1972, The Offence seems to be more in line with contemporary discourses of pedophilia. However, this does not necessarily represent an advance on previous discourses. In undermining the pedophile’s role as 'other,' [...] The Offence brings the pedophile closer to home by re-integrating him within the ‘normal’ make-up of society. Here, the film posits a heart of darkness that, in Baxter's words, is ‘there in everyone,’ but it’s a heart of darkness that is specifically allied with male sexuality, sadomasochism, and violence. The film’s enigmatic title suggests not only Baxter’s or Johnson’s offense but also the ultimate offense – or sin - of human nature."

—Adrian Schober, The Journal of Popular Film and Television


  1. ^ a b c d Christopher Bray: Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man, Faber and Faber, London 2010, ISBN 9780-571-23807-1, p. 174–180.
  2. ^ The Offence (1972) - Full cast and crew

External links[edit]