The Onion Field
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Joseph Wambaugh's The Onion Field is based on an actual 1963 case. L.A. plainclothesmen Karl Hattinger (John Savage) and Ian Campbell (Ted Danson) routinely investigate a pair of suspicious types, Greg Powell (James Woods) and Jimmy Smith (Franklin Seales). Unexpectedly, Powell pulls a gun on the cops, then forces them into a deserted onion field, where he kills Campbell in cold blood. Hattinger manages to escape, and through his eyewitness account, Powell and Smith are arrested. But that is not that. Thanks to their knowledge and manipulation of the quicksilver legal system, Powell and… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"The Onion Field is a serious and most uncompromising movie. It lacks, however, the sort of disciplined craft that might have made it a powerful and affecting one."
‑ Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine
"The film is generally crisp and at times exciting, but it's also full of incidents that are only sketchily explained, and minus the all-important narrative thread that might have provided a clear point of view."
‑ Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Ranks among the best crime films of the late 1970s...and that puts the flick among some rather impressive company."
‑ Scott Weinberg, Apollo Guide
"James Woods as the near-psychotic Powell is chillingly effective, creating a flakiness in the character that exudes the danger of a live wire near a puddle."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"Brutal, even sordid, but compulsive viewing."
‑ , Film4
"Thoughtful trial movie with a disturbing edge."
‑ Kim Newman, Empire Magazine
"It's the usual heavy Wambaugh brew: police procedure closely observed without a trace of romanticism, suggesting simply that life in the force is psychological hell."
‑ Geoff Andrew, Time Out
"Good acting and careful direction by Becker make it worth seeing, but the violence and the language may be too graphic for some tastes."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
More reviews for The Onion Field on Rotten Tomatoes