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SILENT PARTNER, THE (director: Daryl Duke; screenwriters: Curtis Hanson/from the book Think of a Number by Anders Bodelsen; cinematographer: Billy Williams; editor: George Appleby; music: Oscar Peterson; cast: Elliott Gould (Miles Cullen), Christopher Plummer (Harry Reikle), Susannah York (Julie Carver), John Candy (Simonsen), Céline Lomez (Elaine), Gail Dahms (Louise); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Garth H. Drabinsky/Joel B. Michaels/Stephen Young; EMC Film Corporation; 1978-Canada)
“Overcooked with a murky plot.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Curtis Hanson loosely adapts the crime caper movie from the Danish novel Think of a Number by Anders Bodelsen. The music is by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. It’s directed by Daryl Duke (“Payday”/”Slither”), who uses a gimmicky ending in an attempt to salvage the minor thriller that has been overcooked with a murky plot, undeveloped characters, an unconvincing performance by Elliott Gould and strains of manipulated flakiness.

The story is set in Toronto during Christmas. The timid bank teller Miles Cullen (Elliott Gould) is never able to act on his romantic interest toward receptive co-worker Julie Carver (Susannah York), the boss’s mistress. But Miles alertly notices that a mall Santa Claus, Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer), where the bank is located, is preparing robbery notes and suspects he’s going to rob the bank. With that in mind, the clever Miles schemes to keep most of the cash ($50,000) for himself by setting it aside in a bag by his feet and after the heist placing it in a safety deposit box while letting the robber get away with just some chump change before setting the alarm. The police think the robber stole $50,000, and when the newspapers report this amount the twisted sadistic robber confronts Miles and demands “his” money. Miles reluctantly finds himself in a secret partnership with the homicidal maniac, and when Harry sends his attractive woman partner Elaine (Céline Lomez) to find out where Miles hid the money the teller must use his guile to make the girl love him, keep the cash, avoid being killed and not get caught by the police.

We’re asked to believe an implausible but entertaining climactic scene, that has been preceded by Harry committing a brutal murder and Miles scheming to outsmart the dangerous thug in their cat-and-mouse games. Harry, a master of disguises, dresses in drag and visits the bank as arranged with Miles and plans to collect the initial robbery money. How Miles deals with this challenge, knowing full well that Harry will kill him even if he gives him the money, becomes the film’s main focal point.

Plummer makes for an effective menacing heavy and the film has its quirky moments, but the sadism is gratuitous, the romance story plodding and the amoral teller makes for a questionable and unpleasant hero figure in this critic’s judgment.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”