So once again we have survived.

City Heat

tn_cityheatCITY HEAT is a light-hearted gangster movie from 1984 that attempts to combine the powers of two of its era’s biggest icons of manliness: grimacing Clint and wisecracking Burt. They also have Richard Roundtree in there, but he’s playing kind of a weasel, so he’s not able to perform as a representative of blaxploitation swagger.

Burt is a behind-on-his-payments gumshoe, Clint is the Lieutenant who used to be his partner before he quit the force. Now they act like they hate each other, but of course they team up and work pretty well together. Their first scene together is a good one: Clint sits at the counter in a diner, drinking his coffee, staying out of it while two mafia thugs beat the shit out of Burt. He wants nothing to do with it until he gets bumped and spills some of his coffee, then he gets pissed.

The plot is something about Roundtree trying to scam somebody and getting thrown out a window, gangsters taking Burt’s girl for ransom, stuff like that. You got your fedoras, tommyguns, big old cars, cigars, secret bottles of gin, jazz clubs, racial segregation and all that. Irene Cara sings a couple songs, gets hit by a car. It’s no THE COTTON CLUB. There’s pretty broad slapstick humor in the fights, Burt sliding down a counter, saying a funny line to Clint, then getting thrown across the room. It’s way more of a Burt Reynolds movie than a Clint Eastwood one, but the soundtrack features some of Clint’s beloved piano blues, and he gets to sit down at the keys in the end, so it’s not entirely missing his touch.

mp_cityheatSince they’re up against gangsters there’s a pretty good who’s-who of character actors and henchmen: Rip Torn as the kingpin, he’s got Robert Davi, Gene LeBell, Tony Lo Bianco, William Sanderson, Jack Nance as a bookkeeper. Also Nicholas Worth, the bald guy from DARKMAN that was also in BEST OF THE BEST PART 2. He still had a little bit of hair in 1984.

I like both of these guys, of course, but I’m not sure their styles could’ve gone well together. Their humor is pretty different, and also different from Blake Edwards, who wrote this under the pseudonym Sam O. Brown (he was fired as director). Most of the jokes that seem like his style come off pretty clunky and forced. One exception is a weird touch where a truck catches fire during a shootout, then a car runs over a fire hydrant and the water happens to spray right onto the fire and put it out. Those are two separate things that often happen in car chases and shootouts, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them combined like that before. (If only they could’ve gotten a burning fruit stand in there.)

There’s also a pretty good whorehouse fetish gag. Burt busts in a window on his quest to rescue the kidnapped girl and interrupts a Congressman role-playing a Little Red Riding Hood fantasy. Burt ends up punching out a bunch of dudes while wearing a paper mache wolf mask, night gown and bonnet. Gumshoe disguised as a john disguised as a wolf disguised as Grandma. It’s goofy even for this movie, more upfront about being a joke than the bear suit part in THE WICKER MAN remake. But I liked it. (I was less willing to go along with the joke where he’s opening different doors and he hears a horse inside one of the rooms.)

This is not a Clint directorial work, obviously. The director is Richard Benjamin, who did like THE MONEY PIT, MERMAIDS, MARCI X, not really anything great I don’t think. Joseph Stinson is credited as co-writer, he’d done SUDDEN IMPACT, so I bet Clint brought him in to Clint-up a comedy script a little bit. He later did STICK with Burt, so it worked out for him at least.

Not one of the better Clint movies, but it does have Clint in it, which automatically gives it an advantage over most movies.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013 at 9:31 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “City Heat”

  1. I always found this movie to be charming, but I do wonder what i would have been like as a straight action/gangster movie. I do think I would have licked it better that way, you know more of a Clint Eastwood movie with Burt Reynolds along for the ride. Also, STICK is a cool underrated movie.

  2. I’m just happy to see a new post, Vern. I was starting to worry about you! (Thought maybe you finally saw Les Mis and it drained your will to think about movies.)

  3. Always liked Mermaids. Nothing overtly special, but I just loved how it was sold as a sweet, mother-daughter comedy but turned out to be a coming-of-age story about having daddy abandonment issues and losing your virginity on the grounds of a convent to get back at your slutty mom, played by Cher. (My mom’s face was classic as she realized what we were watching, but she was okay with it after the initial shock.) And it had a young, per-Wednesday Addams Christina Ricci stealing scenes from Cher and Winona Ryder. It was also the first movie soundtrack I ever bought on CD. Actually, I think it was the first CD I ever bought.

  4. Richard Benjamin did direct a movie I liked from 1982 called MY FAVORITE YEAR starring Peter O’Toole and Mark Linn-Baker(TV’s Cousin Larry from PERFECT STRANGERS) and Jessica Harper from PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. It’s set in the 1950s about a young writer(Baker) for a live comedy show program who befriends the week’s guest host, an aging star of swashbuckling moves(O’Toole) who is an alcoholic. It’s basically the same plot as GET HIM TO THE GREEK but without the road trip stuff. It’s supposed to be based on Mel Brooks’ experience as a writer on “Your Show of Shows”.

  5. It’s a pretty “meh” movie, I can’t think of an example of a Blake Edwards movie done right by another director, though please correct me if I’m wrong. Edwards isn’t perfect, but he has a very specific rhythm. As for Benjamin, he’s better known as an actor, for me eternally the hapless commander of the short-lived space garbage comedy Quark. It was no Police Squad! or When Things Were Rotten but it has its moments.

    CITY HEAT is a title I always confuse with the equally bland Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas TOUGH GUYS.

  6. Over the years I’ve found that it’s better to look at CITY HEAT as a film noir hommage with some funny lines than the comedy it was marketed as. Both Burt and Clint were coming out of their “funny” periods in 1984, so I don’t really get why they went for this script. But on certain viewings I like it.

  7. I’ve been making my dad laugh with my Rip Torn impersonation lately

  8. Griff, what material do you use?

  9. And does it involve your local bank?

    Also, I was half way through reading this review when I realized it wasn’t the one with James Garner and Bruce Willis.

  10. For some reason those old absurdist, slapstick filled comedies just don’t work after the 1960s. There are a number of them from that decade and earlier that are still enjoyable, but once you hit the seventies that kind of humor, for whatever reason, just doesn’t land the way it should.

  11. I don’t remember a whole lot about this, I think I might have seen 10 minutes of it on cable. But Clint’s good at comedy when it’s the right material. HEARTBREAK RIDGE is a good example. Bill Murray did an interview with Elvis Mitchell on Turner Classic Movies and talked about Clint offering him a WWII comedy he had in development right after STRIPES. He said he turned it down, but said he always wanted to do something like the Jeff Bridges role in THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT.

  12. If you read Burt’s autobiography, he really hurt himself on this movie (a breakaway chair didn’t break when it hit him or something), and he was seriously ill for a long time afterwards. He did most of the movie in a complete daze of pain and pain meds.

  13. Rumour had it back then that it was Eastwood who hit him, breaking his jaw in the process and getting him hooked on pain killers.

  14. And that affected Burt’s career for awhile, because his resulting appearance made everybody think he contracted AIDS, right?

  15. Yes, I remember when STICK came out the year after he had a beard at the beginning of the movie, like a lot of AIDS victims tend to have, and I was wondering if the rumours were true. But then he shaved it of and put on his best wig and looked like the old Burt again.

  16. He said during that time he was healing from the injury and dealing with all that negative press, Clint was his only friend in Hollywood that would talk to him.

  17. “Griff, what material do you use?”

    the ending of Robocop 3, Men in Black quotes, Dodgeball quotes and the real life instance where he got into a fight with Dennis Hopper

  18. Watch him on THE LARRY SANDERS show. Nothing springs to mind, but one quote during the episode Jon Stewart guest hosted and the musical guest was a rap act and one of the network heads is complaining that they are “too urban”, to which his character retorts something to the effect of why not get Lenny Kravitz, since he’s “half-urban”.

  19. Griff, I hope you use: “Son, you’re about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop!” Or “I get better runs in my shorts!”

    Rip Torn really had most of the best lines in Dodgeball.

    That Lance Armstrong exchange will take on new meaning, though.

  20. I thought Clint was funny in THE ENFORCER, especially during the scene where they’re evaluating different candidates for detective.

  21. Burt talks about the accident here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDAvNaTBG_A

    Links to the other parts are on the page. Not sure which part it’s on but he does reference it.

    There’s a lot of fluff in this interview (it’s Piers Morgan, after all), but there’s some great stuff in there, too.

    Good ol’ Burt. My man crush is as strong as ever.

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