CITY HEAT - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 15, 2016
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another ’80s movie with a recent Blu-ray upgrade, this one thanks to Warner Home Video. This is my Dec. 9, 1984, Deseret News review.
Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds have spoofed their own images before, but they’ve never been in a film together. And because they’re two of the biggest movie stars in the business today, there must have been some kind of sense in Hollywood that spoofing their screen personas together would go down in film history as a memorable, Newman/Redford-style teaming.
But “City Heat” isn’t so hot, a lukewarm, tepid, undercooked period piece, a ’30s cops ’n’ robbers picture with lengthy shootouts and a few funny gags sandwiched in between a lot of mayhem and convoluted plotting.
“City Heat” was directed by Richard Benjamin, whose low-key style perfectly fit “My Favorite Year” and “Racing With the Moon.” But something a little sharper-edged was needed for “City Heat,” and it’s hard not to think of what a wild, farcical and much-funnier comedy it could have been under the hand of its original writer-director, Blake Edwards. (Edwards had his name taken off the credits.)
As it is, “City Heat” has its moments, and Eastwood/Reynolds fans should have enough to satisfy their movie appetites. Others, however, should beware.
Burt Reynolds, left, Jane Alexander, Clint Eastwood, 'City Heat'
Eastwood plays a steel-jawed, tough, silent police lieutenant and Reynolds is a wisecracking, over-enthusiastic private eye who used to work on the force with Eastwood. Now, however, they are constantly at each other’s throats (Eastwood calls Reynolds “Shorty,” Reynolds refers to Eastwood as a Neanderthal, and they occasionally refer to each other as “Stanley and Ollie”).
The plot has Reynolds’ detective partner (Richard Roundtree) murdered by a mobster (Rip Torn), with Reynolds and Eastwood trying to crack the case. Along the way we meet Reynolds’ secretary (Jane Alexander), who is wooed by Eastwood; Reynolds’ girlfriend (Madeline Kahn), a rich floozy; Roundtree’s girlfriend (Irene Cara), who witnessed the murder; and a rival mobster (Tony Lo Bianco).
The setting is Kansas City, though it rains enough to be Washington state. But that’s OK, since it gives the cinematographer ample opportunity to show moody, rain-slick city streets, just like all those black-and-white gangster pictures that were made in the ’30s.
And there is a certain sense of fun to it all, though often the cast seems to be having a better time than the audience. (At one point we are led into a movie theater where “Horse Feathers” is playing and Groucho Marx is shown on the screen. I began to wish I was watching “Horse Feathers” instead of “City Heat.”)
But there are some funny things here, as when Reynolds yells at Eastwood about his gunslinger style, walking down the middle of the street instead of hiding to dodge bullets, or when the two pull out handguns and Eastwood’s always has the longer barrel.
But those moments seem few and far between, and the obvious attempt to make Eastwood and Reynolds a kind of Depression-era “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” fails, mainly because there is little chemistry between them, partly because they are essentially antagonists, and to some degree because they are mostly in separate scenes, which, for all intents and purposes, makes them almost appear to be in separate movies.
The supporting cast has hardly anything to do, which is especially frustrating when we have to watch a talented actress like Jane Alexander simply react to her leading men.
And despite its being rated PG, “City Heat” is quite a violent film, even more violent, in fact, than the R-rated “Beverly Hills Cop,” though it is somewhat less graphic. There are also a few profanities, and a scene in a brothel that makes for a few tacky gags.
On the whole, “City Heat” is OK fun for its more interesting moments. But in many ways it seems like a very light made-for-TV movie, save for the presence of the big-gun stars.
There is, however, one particular line of dialogue that is alone worth the price of admission. Eastwood tells Alexander at one point: “I abhor violence.”
Let’s hope Harry Callahan doesn’t hear about that.