Over a career spanning five decades, Sidney Lumet specialised in taut, claustrophobic human dramas. But while the director's early works such as 12 Angry Men and Fail Safe were characterised by a decidedly theatrical aesthetic, the 70s saw him undertake a more expansive approach to filmmaking.
Adapted by John Hopkins from his stage play This Story of Yours, The Offence is one of Lumet's most uneven offerings, awkwardly bridging the two phases of his career. It presents audiences with an overwhelmingly bleak rumination on evil, as Sean Connery's hard-boiled police detective beats a suspected child molester to death and is forced to confront his own inner darkness. Scenes in which the star's obsessive, bruised machismo is shown languishing within an austere vision of Britain are hugely effective, but lengthy dialogues with Trevor Howard and Vivian Merchant lack naturalism. Bordering on stagey melodrama, they distract from what's otherwise an ambiguous delight. [Lewis Porteous]