City Heat (1984) – Review

2 Stars

City Heat gets all the peripheral elements right, the 1930’s have been lavishly recreated (on the backlot of Warner Bros. in Burbank, Ca.) and the look and feel are spot on. This is an action comedy in the tradition of the gloriously goofy golden era screwball comedies and gangster pictures, starring two icon’s of late 1970’s action films in Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. The pairing of these two box-office kingpins was notable at the time of the film’s release, nearly 30 years ago. However, this isn’t some Expendables style throwback to mayhem, but rather a light touch action/comedy with an absolutely winning turning from Reynolds.

The two headliners are the best thing in this handsome but scattershot film set in Kansas City during the prohibition. Reynolds plays Mike Murphy, a private detective and former cop, struggling to pay his bills and in love with a socialite. Murphy is entangled with mobsters when he learns his partner has been murder while trying to organize a shakedown of the two most powerful mob figures in the city. Eastwood is Lt. Speer, a Dirty Harry like cop who speaks few words and carries a large shotgun.

Neither Speer or Murphy likes the other very much, but the duo are forced to work together amid fist-fights, shoot-outs and available women. All of which is done in a very self-conscious parody of the stars’ screen images. Director Richard Benjamin, who has dabbled with receding decades before in the period films My Favorite Year and Racing the Moon, showcases a lively ’30s in this frustratingly mismatched amalgamation of gangland caper, buddy cop flicks and screwball comedies.

The chemistry of the leads acts as a band-aid concealing a number of shortcomings in the production. The story is hazy and vague on plot-points and the violent shoot-outs seem to have wondered in from another movie. For instance, we are never clear what it is that the gangsters want back so badly from Murphy. Also a love triangle is set-up early on between Murphy, his secretary and Speer only to be dropped in favor of a perfunctory romance between her and Speer. Star power can make mediocre films more tolerable, and sometimes the promise of two screen idols teaming up onscreen leads to a disappointing final outcome. Depending on your personal level of interest in Reynolds or Eastwood will determine which verdict is more likely. Once again Reynolds displays under-rated comedic timing and flare.

Director: Richard Benjamin
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Madeline Kahn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *