Sunday, May 17, 2009

THE SILENT PARTNER (1978) - Daryl Duke

The first of two "inside job" crime movies I watched this weekend.

Everyone's favorite 70's everyman Elliot Gould plays a nebbishy bank teller who catches on that his Toronto branch is about to be robbed when he spots a shopping mall Santa played by a fantastically ghoulish Christopher Plummer casing the joint. In an impressive feat of calculated mental accounting (and screenwriting), Gould figures out a way to turn the robbery to his own advantage, in the process making himself a little richer and a little more attractive to the ladies. But when Plummer realizes that he's a swindler-swindled, he takes a break from S&M club hopping to pursue his "silent partner" Gould full time, making Gould's life a living hell and the $48,000 seem maybe not so worth it.

There's a lot of goodies in this underappreciated Gould outing from the character touches (Gould's aquarium, Plummer's disturbing gold ankle jewelry) to the ladies (a very foxy Celine Lomez playing a twist on the bolier plate femme fatale) to the switcheroo itself (props to a young Curtis Hanson on the screenplay). There's also a very early John Candy in a small role as a likable bank cuckold. The direction by TV-director Daryl Duke (some Columbo's here, some Banacek's there) may not knock your socks off, but much like Duke's earlier underseen '70s gem Payday starring Rip Torn as a boozing, bed-hopping country singer, it's the lead performance that does most of the work for him.

They don't really make them much like this anymore -- small, unpretentious and character-driven. And if they even tried, an actor like Gould wouldn't be the lead today, and the robbery amount in question certainly a lot more than a meager 48 grand.

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