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
Music by Harrison Birtwistle
Cinematography Gerry Fisher
Edited by John Victor-Smith
Distributed by United Artists (theatrical release)
Release date
Running time
112 min.
Country United Kingdom
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. He is plagued by images of violence, and is losing his mind under the strain.

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 wants to commit the sort of sex crimes he investigates. 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. 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 Mill Pond area and also Easthampstead's Point Royal) with a budget of $900,000 (£385,000 at that time).[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. It is the composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle's only film score.

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.


"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."

— Britmovie

"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

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 20 October 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.

In 2014 the film was released on Blu-ray in the US, and in 2015 it was released in the UK in the same format.


  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.

External links[edit]