This film is an adaptation of the novel by real-life cop Wambaugh, who left the force after he became a best-selling author. Unfortunately, the film pares down the book and alters the characters to an extent that what's left is more of a police recruiting picture than a drama. It shows the
men in blue as knights (a TV miniseries called "The Blue Knight" was based on another of Wambaugh's books) and reveals little of the corruption that is known to occur. Keach is working toward a law degree and serving as a rookie in the Los Angeles Police Department. He soon leaves the Academy and
is placed into duty beside Scott, an old-timer who does not go by the book. One of sergeant Scott's ploys is to round up hookers, get them drunk, then let them out when they are so bombed they can't walk the street, only stagger. Scott and Keach become close, and Keach begins to overlook his law
studies until his wife, Alexander, starts complaining about it. She doesn't know what Keach sees in police work, which is low-paying and, above all, dangerous. Her fears are realized when Keach is shot in the line of duty and almost dies from the shotgun blast. Keach comes back to work with Scott,
who soon retires. But Scott can't handle his retirement and takes his own life. (This is a major error in the film's construction, as Scott is the unifying force of the drama, but he is written out of the script two-thirds of the way through the movie.) Keach is reassigned to the vice squad but
hates it and is soon back on a regular beat. Meanwhile Alexander dislikes being a cop's wife, so she exits, with daughter Fresh in tow. This shatters Keach, who is on his way to becoming what Scott was, lonely and disillusioned. After his wife's departure Keach becomes reacquainted with Cash, a
nurse who had tended to him while he was recovering from his shotgun wound. Her apartment has been burglarized, and he makes the police call. He would like to return, off-duty, but she'll have none of that. Later he tries to arrest hooker Thompkins, but she races away with Keach holding on to the
car door. That results in his being somewhat injured, so he returns to Cash's apartment, and she reverts to being a nurse. She falls in love, and eventually the couple plan to be married. But Keach is called on to handle a minor hassle between a husband and wife and is mortally wounded by the
hopped-up man when he tries to help. (Cops will tell you that it's the domestic fights that they least like to face.) The picture ends as Keach's life is ebbing, the result of the dumb mistake of not taking the situation seriously.
In an excellent cameo Shaw steals the scene as the drunken mother. The lumberjack was played by Mike Lane, who looked a lot smaller than he did when doing the Primo Carnera role in THE HARDER THEY FALL. In small roles look for several actors and actresses who went on to achieve some fame,
including Atherton (SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE and THE DAY OF THE LOCUST), Estrada ("Chips" TV series), Lauter (MAGIC), and TV's Dolph Sweet and Isabel Sanford. THE NEW CENTURIONS is slick attempt at showing the lives of cops, but it seldom delves beneath the surface and often substitutes gratuitous
action for compassion.
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- Released: 1972
- Rating: R
- Review: This film is an adaptation of the novel by real-life cop Wambaugh, who left the force after he became a best-selling author. Unfortunately, the film pares down the book and alters the characters to an extent that what's left is more of a police recruiting… (more)