George C. Scott stars as Kilvinsky, a gruff veteran beat cop who’s assigned to teach troubled young rookie Roy Fehler (Stacy Keach) how to police the mean streets of Los Angeles. But Kilvinsky’s outdated tough-cop ways and Fehler’s mounting problems at home threaten to completely unravel the pair. Jane Alexander, Erik Estrada and Roger E. Mosley co-star in this gritty adaptation of the novel by Joseph Wambaugh.


Richard Fleischer

George C. Scott     Stacy Keach
Jane Alexander     Scott Wilson
Rosalind Cash     Erik Estrada
Clifton James     Richard E. Kalk
James Sikking     Isabel Sanford
Roger E. Mosley



The 1972 film, based upon Joseph Wambaugh’s life-is-messier-than-fiction novel, set a precedent that eventually led to Hill Street Blues and other loopy, realistic police dramas. So, as the movie is presented, it could have gotten away with a little grain, which might have given it a documentary feel, but when even the fade-to-blacks swirl with pinpoints of color, it is age and not art guiding the design. Along with an old and too grainy picture, the disc has an unremarkable monaural soundtrack. In most films, a scene in an advancing narrative normally occurs within a few hours of the previous scene. In The New Centurions script, scenes regularly pick up weeks or even months after the preceding one, so that the scope of Wambaugh’s novel is condensed evenly. The movie was released at a time when Hollywood perceived the populace as perceiving cops with suspicion and resentment. The characters constantly spout excuses for the film’s existence, and Stacy Keach, as the hero, seems unconvincingly single minded in his passion. Only one performer gets away with it. George C. Scott conveys the loneliness of his character, a retiring cop, so accurately that you can’t help but feel for him, even when the filmmaking manipulations are obvious. His presence is the most memorable aspect of the film, the one argument for collecting it.

In the same way, The New Centurions shoots itself in the gut again and again, albeit it on different scales. What could have been a nuanced portrait of the men in blue ends up a film that makes sure we don’t miss the allusion of its title — by way of a long speech delivered in hammers.

The DVD is a great looking release, but it’s average on special features. I was also hoping for a cleaner print, but I’m just glad we’re getting this film in Region 1 for the first time. If you’re a crime film fan…this is a must-buy. Hell, I’d recommend checking out the rest of Sony’s Martini Movies. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a studio get behind their older films like this. It’s much needed.



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