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1 review, 9 user ratings

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City Heat
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by Jack Sommersby

"City Lukewarm"
2 stars

Don't be fooled by that great cast, for the pleasures of this unfortunate misfire are few and far between.

City Heat is a handsome-looking production and showcases one of Burt Reynolds's most winning performances, but it's not a particularly entertaining motion picture. The original title was Kansas City Jazz and was writer/director Blake (The Pink Panther) Edwards's project, but after creative differences with Clint Eastwood Edwards was fired and replaced with director Richard Benjamin, and Joseph C. Stinson, who wrote the third Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact, was brought on for a rewrite, and the result is wildly uneven. (Edwards chose to be credited with the pseudonym Sam O. Brown, its acronym unsubtly that of his 1981 Hollywood-skewering S.O.B.) It's intended to be a playful take on crime and gangster films of the 1930s, and though the 1933 period detail is occasionally impressive the movie's tonality is all over the place, which is a shame because this is the long-awaited teaming of top box-office stars Eastwood and Reynolds, and it's only mildly successful. Reynolds is Mike Murphy, a former cop turned gumshoe whose detective agency is in dire financial shape; and Eastwood is the granitic Lieutenant Speer who manages to crack a smile only when the seasons change. The bare-bones plot has to do with Murphy's partner trying a blackmail scheme with the city's leading gangster: he's acquired an incriminating ledger from the gangster's bookkeeper for twenty-five-thousand dollars (where he came up with the dough we don't know) and plans on selling it back to the gangster for fifty-thousand (why he doesn't bother protecting himself better we don't know, either), but when the partner is slain and Murphy is believed to be in possession of the ledger, all the crooks come out of the woodwork and Murphy finds himself in a series of fistfights and gunfights, with Speers showing up now and again and only getting involved when his hat is accidentally knocked off or his windshield the victim of a stray bullet -- it's supposed to be a humorous take on Eastwood's classic slow burn but isn't nearly as witty as intended. The movie, which was shot on a Universal Studios backlot and more than looks it (the artificiality of the exteriors is noticeable in each and every frame), never really comes alive what with the numerous action sequences overshadowing most of the comedy; the violence is rendered in too solemn a manner for us to get any kind of kick from; and Eastwood's regular composer Lennie Niehaus has contributed an inappropriately "suspenseful" music score that at times sounds left over from Eastwood's serial-killer thriller Tightrope earlier in the year.

Director Benjamin showed some ability in his two previous pieces, the '50s-set television comedy My Favorite Year (with Peter O-Toole) and the '40s-set coming-of-age drama Racing With the Moon (with Sean Penn), but those had intelligent scripts and Benjamin didn't have to make more of them than what'd been written; here, in the difficult position of lending storytelling acuity to a piece of patchwork while catering to the egos of Hollywood's biggest superstars, Benjamin doesn't bring much to the party. He shoots in a bland, boxy TV style -- the compositions feel cramped and could've used the kind of widescreen elasticity that Edwards would've lent the proceedings, and the action sequences are so mechanically rendered they could've been shot by the stunt coordinator for all the unremarkable movement within the 1.85:1 ratio. With its contextual vapidity and lackluster execution, City Heat is devoid of a crucial through-line that would fluidly segue one scene into another: it's meandering and episodic; and if not for Reynolds's solidity I'm not sure I would've stayed with it. Reynolds managed to contribute a multi-faceted performance as a habitual womanizer in Edwards's mediocre The Man Who Loved Women from the year before, and he's thoroughly ingratiating and relaxed this time around; you can sense an undiluted joie de vivre to his acting that puts you on his side from the get-go, he delivers his zippy punch lines like the consummate pro he is, and it's a pleasure to rediscover what a pleasing screen presence he can be after his recent stinkers Cannonball Run II and Stroker Ace. Perhaps there was some potential in contrasting the brazen Murphy with the martinet Speers, but Eastwood keeps himself too held-in to engage us and serve as a good-natured foil for Reynolds. He seems to be doing a parody of a parody of himself; and while expecting some stylization from him may have been too much to ask, some semblances of animation certainly wouldn't have hurt. In the fine Bronco Billy Eastwood proved he could do light comedy, but he had more of a rapport with Clyde the orangutan in Any Which Way You Can than he does with Reynolds -- not that they share that many scenes together, anyway, which is one of the movie's biggest miscalculations (along with wasting a game supporting cast of Jane Alexander, Rip Torn, Richard Roundtree, Madeline Kahn, Tony Lo Bianco, and William Sanderson). City Heat has its moments, but they're not memorable ones you take out of the theatre with you. For all its empty promises, it's nothing more than a glorified theatrical trailer

A real disappointment.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1406&reviewer=327
originally posted: 11/08/13 18:11:58
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User Comments

5/18/06 mr.mike burt and clint try hard but can't pull it off 3 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Haven't seen it. 3 stars
5/01/06 David Cornelius ----- 3 stars
5/01/06 HBS-SH what knockers 3 stars
5/22/04 John how did this go so wrong? 1 stars
10/23/02 Charles Tatum This cast and director should have made something watchable 1 stars
5/19/00 tank The story is impossible to follow and the two stars deserve better. Still amusing in parts 3 stars
4/22/99 lucas jackson This is one of the movies were they take two great actors and make a movie that is shit 2 stars
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  07-Dec-1984 (PG)

  N/A (15)

  14-Mar-1985 (M)

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