I Can’t Stay Silent About The Silent Partner!
DIRECTED BY DARYL DUKE / 1979
KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
BLU-RAY STREET DATE JUNE 18, 2019
Whenever Zekefilm’s site editor offers the list of upcoming Blu-Rays available for review, I make my selections by one of two criteria. One is that I know the movie to be bad – like Kazaam-levels bad. Those movies are torture to sit through, but can be fun to review. The other criteria is that the movie offers some sort of interesting hook- a good cast, or an interesting director. I often know nothing about these movies, except what the marketing blurb tells me, but I hope for the best. Most of the time I end up disappointed, but with The SIlent Partner, I was happily surprised. The Silent Partner is a crackerjack bank heist thriller starring Elliot Gould, Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, and Céline Lomez (plus John Candy, in what might be his first film role). It’s intricately plotted screenplay (by Curtis Hanson) is given taut direction by Daryl Duke. It’s stylish and clever, and both Gould and Plummer give great performances.
Gould plays a mild-mannered bank teller named Miles Cullen. One day, shortly before Christmas, Cullen figures out that a department store Santa is casing his bank in preparation for a robbery. Instead of alerting anyone, Cullen takes advantage of this foreknowledge to steal tens of thousands of dollars for himself. When the Santa finally makes his move, Cullen is able to blame the lost money on the Jolly Old Armed Robber. When the robber, an oily thug named Reikle, played by Plummer, learns that he didn’t get all of the money, Reikle contacts Cullen. Cullen had better cough up the rest of that dough… or else!
[The Silent Partner is] stylish and clever, and both Gould and Plummer give great performances
The movie becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Cullen and Reikle. Reikle is clearly the more dangerous of the two men. He’s armed and more than willing to kill if he has to, but Cullen is smarter, and a lot more desperate. Cullen feels as trapped in his day-to-day existence as the tropical fish he collects. The bars of the bank vault in which he works serve as those of a cage. The robbery gives Cullen a full measure of self-confidence, which makes him more attractive to the co-worker he’s got a major crush on (York). He hopes to take the stolen cash once the heat dies down and start a new life for himself somewhere. But before he can do that, Cullen has to escape Reikle’s very real and physical threat. Reikle, though he professes admiration for Cullen’s ingenuity, would just as soon kill that wascally bank teller once he can learn where the stolen money is hidden.
As Reikle, Plummer brings an edgy, off-beat energy to the part. He’s menacing in such a weird, understated way, right up until the moment he explodes and someone gets seriously hurt. When we watch him threaten Cullen over the phone, we know he means what he says, but when he pops open Cullen’s mailslot, and all we see are Reikle’s eyes, that really punctuates Plummer’s performance. In an interview included on the DVD, Gould says that his first pick for the role was Mick Jagger. As far as casting-might-have-beens go, Jagger definitely would’ve been scary, but Plummer is able to balance the threat with a (thin) veneer of reasonableness.
Gould, on the other hand, gives us a portrait of a reasonable who places themselves into unreasonable circumstances. He chuckles to himself at the ridiculousness of the situation he is trapped in at one point. In an effort to get Reikle off his back, Gould sets him up and phones the police with a phony tip. Gould does his best ’30’s gangster’ voice, and warns the police that Reikle has a ‘rod’ on him. When he hangs up, Cullen laughs. By the end of the movie though, a vicious and gruesome attack by Reikle teaches Cullen that this isn’t a game, and Reikle isn’t fooling around.
The film lives up to the promise of its interesting premise
The Silent Partner takes place in and around Toronto. The filmmakers took advantage of a tax law that had been passed in Canada. Most of the time when movies come out of a tax loophole, the results are terrible (see the entire oeuvre of Uwe Boll for example). The Silent Partner by contrast is a smart and effective thriller. The film lives up to the promise of its interesting premise and intriguing cast. The Silent Partner is a tense and effective thriller and is well worth seeking out.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of The Silent Partner comes packaged with a new interview with star Elliot Gould about the movie, as well as a feature-length commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. There’s also the usual collection of trailers for related films in the Kino Lorber Catalog.