Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Thing In My Pocket Is A Gun

1978's THE SILENT PARTNER is a real sleeper out of Canada. I've read positive reviews of this thriller for several years, though I haven't really had the chance to see it until Lionsgate put it out on an attractive widescreen DVD this month. Fans of cult movies consider THE SILENT PARTNER to be a cleverly played and plotted crime drama, and I'm inclined to agree.

Elliott Gould's days as a leading man were just about done when he went to Toronto to shoot THE SILENT PARTNER (which was Gould's third film of 1978, along with CAPRICORN ONE and MATILDA, the execrable boxing-kangaroo movie), but he's perfectly cast as mild bank teller Miles Cullen. Miles anticipates that a mall Santa Claus is going to rob him, and arranges it so that the crook gets only about a thousand bucks and the rest of the loot (more than $40,000) ends up in Miles' briefcase. What Miles doesn't anticipate is that the robber, Harry (THE SOUND OF MUSIC's Christopher Plummer, a native Canadian), is a psycho and threatens Miles to return the loot.

A tightly plotted cat-and-mouse match plays out between Miles, a schlemiel whose life barely reaches beyond the bank's walls, and Harry, a vicious man who beats and rapes a teenage girl merely to vent his frustration at being outwitted. The two men are opposite sides of the same coin, which is not an original conceit for a crime thriller, but the screenplay by Curtis Hanson (later a Hollywood superstar who directed L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) and direction by acclaimed television vet Daryl Duke (THE THORN BIRDS) nicely snap the pieces together, adding crisp characterization and moments of real suspense.

John Candy, then between seasons of the early half-hour version of SCTV (then called SECOND CITY TV), has a small supporting role, but Gould and Plummer's main backups are Susannah York in a tricky part as a coworker of Miles' who somewhat fancies him and sexy French-Canadian actress Celine Lomez as an alluring young woman who starts a romance with Miles. How she fits into the plot isn't exactly a surprise, though her fate plays an enormous role in establishing to the audience the lengths to which Harry will go to beat Miles at their "game."

Whereas THE SILENT PARTNER may have been a hit in its homeland, it didn't do much in the U.S. One can see how it may have been a difficult movie to market, and certainly the poster I've seen of Plummer, dressed as Santa and firing a gun, doesn't accurately describe the picture. It was released on VHS here and occasionally aired on television, but was never on laserdisc and is only now making its DVD debut. Unfortunately, Lionsgate provided no extras, not even a trailer. Duke died late last year, and Hanson may be inaccessible, but a Gould/Plummer commentary might have been of interest. Certainly don't judge the film based on the terrible DVD box art, which misrepresents the film all the way. It's a good thriller with two strong yet disparate leading men (mopey eccentric Jew vs. snake-charming Shakespearean) matching up together perfectly.

1 comment:

Vince said...

I'm a big fan of PARTNER. Great to hear that it's finally available on DVD.