Friday, August 11, 2017

The New Centurions (1972)

Director: Richard Fleischer

Writers: Stirling Silliphant, Joseph Wambaugh, Robert Towne

Composer: Quincy Jones

Starring: George C. Scott, Stacy Keach, Jane Alexander, Scott Wilson, Rosiland Cash, Erik Estrada, Clifton James, Richard E. Kalk, James Sikking, Beverly Hope Atkinson, Mittie Lawrence, Isabel Sanford, Carol Speed, William Atherton, Ed Lauter, Kitten Natividad, Anne Ramsey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The nationwide bestseller about cops - by a cop!

Plot: An idealistic rookie cop joins the LAPD to make ends meet while finishing law school, and is indoctrinated by a seasoned veteran. As time goes on, he loses his ambitions and family as police work becomes his entire life.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

By coincidence this is the second movie I've seen recently with Stacy Keach.  I've known of him for decades but it's just now that I'm paying more attention to his work.  He's great!  I'm really digging this cat's 70s output.  This cast is fantastic and it's got one hell of a large gathering of great character actors.  If the names don't look familiar then look at their faces and body of work.  There's an excellent chance you've seen nearly all of them in something.  I could spend paragraphs on just the merits of most of the cast alone.  It's an optimistic and idealistic view of the L.A. police department.  Some of the cops bend the rules just a little but there aren't any that are what we'd consider bad cops.  The corruption aspect is missing.  In this current climate as well as the history of police brutality (just in L.A. alone, not to mention the rest of the country), it's nice to see something different.  The thing is, this is a character study focusing on one man who wants to do the right thing and help those in need.  In this respect we don't need to see anything more than some guys bending the rules a little to make the streets safer.  Plus this was made in the early 70s so it's got that look and sensibility to it.  The ending is devastating and a real kick in the guts. 

One thing I found fascinating was how the filmmakers handled the passage of time.  There weren't any title cards telling you when or how much time had passed.  It was done in the subtlest of ways that blended so smoothly into the picture that you must pay attention.  One example is how Roy (Keach), who'd talked about wanting to eventually get off of night patrolling and work in vice, is in his uniform in one scene and the next he's sitting behind a desk in plain clothes in the vice department.  You quickly realize it's months later and he's gotten a promotion.  He goes on a couple of missions and then we cut to Kilvinski (Scott, who had earlier retired and moved to Florida to be with his daughter and newly born granddaughter) walking into his old station to see the guys.  He mentions to one of his old comrades that he wanted to take a break from his three grandchildren and come back to his old stomping grounds.  It's stuff like that that you'll find throughout the film.  Years pass and it's as smooth as can be.  I don't recall a movie treating the passage of time like this.  It's absolutely brilliant.  The picture is interesting and at times fun and depressing and it takes you to a place you don't often see.  Highly recommended.

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