- Movie Rating -

City Heat (1984)

| December 7, 1984

City Heat is the most disorganized mess that I’ve ever seen.  It pairs together Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in hopes that maybe they have the same kind of sparkling chemistry that Redford and Newman had with The Sting.  But that movie had a tight plot, solid comedy and a sense of fun.  This movie shows signs of having been a filmed deal.

The movie takes place in the 30s but everybody talks and acts like its 1984.  The movie is populated by vintage Studebakers, fedora hats, top coats, guns, dingy coffee shop and period jazz music that plays under every single scene to remind you that it’s the 1930s.  It helps because the dialogue sounds like banter on The Tonight Show:

Burt: “Do me a favor, don’t try to save my life.”
Clint: “My pleasure.”

The plot is so incomprehsible that it just made me misspell ‘incomprehensible’.  Its 1933 Kansas City and Clint plays a police detective with a slow-burn while Burt plays a private eye whose dialogue is spoken in smart-ass one-liners.  The movie isn’t really clear on how they relate to each other or to anyone else.  Burt has a girlfriend that he kisses but then she seems to be in a relationship with Eastwood, but the problem there is never referred to or brought up.  There’s a plot involving a local gangster named Primo Pitt (Rip Torn) whose goons are looking for a stolen box that, I think, contains some incriminating evidence involving illegal book-making.  Meanwhile Burt is trying get Clint to help him find the box but Clint possibly suspects Burt of working with Rip Torn to get it back.  That’s not really made clear.

I’m not really sure.  This movie is so jumbled that you can’t possibly follow it.  The comedy, again, feels like talk show banter.  The action scenes are way too violent for the kind of buddy-comedy aesthetic that the movie is aiming for, and there is no sense that anyone at any time had the slightest notion of making this into a movie.  It’s just a series of deals to get big names in hopes of selling this as A Major Motion Picture.  It fails completely.

Clint can take a bump like this in stride and carry on.  Burt, on the other hand, is killing his career with this movie coming on the heels of Cannonball Run II, The Man Who Loved Women and Stroker Ace, which was the role that he took instead of Terms of Endearment.  He looks like a fool in this movie, spouting stupid one-liners and mugging for the camera like an irritating child star.  Where is the charm and the charisma of his pre-Smokey work?

Just by coincidence, the night before I saw this movie, I saw one of those behind-the-scenes TV documentaries.  You know the ones, they show you clips from the movie spliced in with footage of the making of the movie usually with the actors laughing with each other, or consulting with the director and then we get tightly-written interviews with the stars about how wonderful it is to work together. 

What they miss is that this movie was originally written by Blake Edwards who wrote and directed this mess before having his name removed and then being replaced by Richard Benjamin.  They also miss out on the meetings between the actor’s advisors who apparently worked over every line of dialogue to make sure that their star looked as good as they possibly could – meaning that they omitted any kind of spontaneity from their performances.  The actors, which include Clint, Burt, Rip Torn, Madelyn Kahn, Jane Alexander and Richard Rountree are propped up as packaged deals.  What the filmmakers miss is that the best way to protect their actors is to simply let them be engaging to the audience.  Let them be the actors that made them stars in the first place.  Write a script that won’t have us wondering what they’re doing in such a dismal mess.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Comedy