The Onion Field

Synopsis: Greg Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Smith (aka Jimmy Youngblood), a petty thief, as his partner in crime. Powell panics one night when the two of them are pulled over by a pair of cops for broken brake-lights. Powell decides to kidnap the cops and Smith, as always, reluctantly goes along with Powell's crazy scheme. The group drives out to a deserted onion field in Bakersfield, California and one officer is shot while the other escapes. The remainder of the film explores the nature of the American justice system, as well as the devastating psychological effects of this event and the trial on the surviving officer.
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director(s): Harold Becker
Production: AVCO Embassy Pictures
  Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
122 min


- I'm sorry. You wanted me?

- I'm Karl Hettinger, your new partner.

Ian Campbell.

Welcome to the felony squad.

I thought they were woofing me

when they said I could find you here.

I was just bouncing

a few notes off the walls.

If I do it at home,

the neighbors call the cops.

I don't know how you can stand it.

This place gives me the crawlies.

It's like a tomb.

A piper plays where he can.

It's in me blood, you know, laddie.

- Strange music. What's it called?

- Cha Till MacCruimen.

It's an ancient funeral dirge.

And that means,

"MacCrimmon will never return."

- Ian?

- Yeah?

How long have you been

hanging around in cellars?

Talk to anybody about it?

Hey! Youngblood!

Jimmy Youngblood!

- Say, old thing, how you doing?

- Jimmy, my man! When did you get out?

- Yesterday.

- Damn! Ain't that a mother?

Hop on up and let me

have this boy clean some skates.

They could do with some help.

I could do it my own self, if it's okay.

Like they say,

once a shine boy, always a shine boy.

Go ahead, help yourself.

My man, buy yourself a trip to Hawaii.

You look like new money.

Guess your ship came in.

Sure did. Jimmy, meet my partner.

- I'm Greg Powell.

- This is a homeboy, Greg.

Always called him Youngblood.

Everybody on East Sixth Street

got an alias.

- Youngblood your righteous name, Jimmy?

- Good as any, ain't it?

Now, a man's name ain't important.

Being a loyal, standup guy,

that's what's important.

And any friend of Billy's, etc., etc...

Say, Jim...

You know, those kind of look

like jailhouse hot dogs.

You just got out of the slammer,

didn't you?

Seems like everybody in LA

got a thing for shoes these days.

Used to be pussy before I went away.

Greg, my man, come on,

let's go do our business.

Jimmy, see you around.

Say, brother, how about loaning me 10 scoots

till I get myself together?

Go see the car wash boss.

He pays minimum wages

to any ex-con who wants a job.

Minimum wage?

I expect more than that

for watching flies f*ck.

Say, Jim, now,

I just got out 10 months ago, myself.

Paroled from Vacaville.

And I know how you're feeling about now.

- Like, thanks for the loan.

- Hell, Jim, that ain't a loan, it's a gift.

Billy, give him $5 more.

Shit, what do I look like,

the Bank of America?

Man, go see the car wash boss.

He pays minimum wages.

- Where you staying, Jimmy?

- A little hotel on Sixth and Wall.

- How you planning to make money, Jim?

- Same way you guys make yours.

See you around, Jimbo.

Catch you later, Greg.

Cornpone, jive-ass, peckerwood.

Think you're gonna like felony, Kars?

It beats wearing a blue suit.

Beats writing traffic tickets.

It might be boring most of the time,

but who knows?

There might be something

right around the corner.


Not thrills,

but something other folks don't see.

What if it's something

you don't understand?

I don't know.

It doesn't matter, I guess,

just as long as it's something.

To be there is the thing, partner.

Yes, sir?

- You feel like another piece?

- I finally got my weight below 200.

I'll get it for you.

At least you're tall enough to carry it.

Married life's making me feel

like an avocado with feet.

That's just a little excess

adipose tissue.

What were you going to do

before you became a cop?

You'll never guess.

I was a premed student.

I could have guessed.

There you go.

- What did your dad do?

- He was a doctor.

He died when I was a boy.

My mother and I always figured

that I'd become a doctor, too.

College dropouts sure end up

in the strangest jobs.

When I worked vice,

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Joseph Wambaugh

Joseph Aloysius Wambaugh, Jr. (born January 22, 1937) is a bestselling American writer known for his fictional and non-fictional accounts of police work in the United States. Several of his first novels were set in Los Angeles, California, and its surroundings, and featured Los Angeles police officers as protagonists. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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