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May 11, 1979 - Image 8

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-11

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Page 8-Friday, May 11, 1979-The Michigan Daily
'Partner's' silence was welcome

Canadian crime thriller that proves so
By CHRISTOPHER POTTER dour, charmless and often downright
Point: Canadian television drama tacky that its rather ingriguing plotline.
normally outstrips its American coun- is effectively eviscerated.
terpart by a country mile both THE FILM'S locale for felony is a
technically and artistically. branch bank deep in the confines of
Point: Canadian-made feature-length Toronto's huge Eaton Centre shopping
movies-are as rare as the great auk. mall. A retiring bank teller (Elliott
Considering the resultant glut of Gould!) accidentally ferrets out the
hangover video talent, one might ex- robbery scheme of a crook disguised as
pect that rare flick that does emerge a charity Santa Claus. To the surprise
from north of the border to prove an in- of everyone including himself, the
teresting, perhaps memorable, at the meek teller, aptly named Miles Cullen,
very least competent cinematic import. proves a latent criminal mastermind.
That's what's especially disappoin- Anticipating on a hunch the robber's
ting about The Silent Partner, a new heist, Miles contrives to pocket the

bank's cash himself while making it
appear his assailant has gotten away
with all the loot.
The robber, a sadistically repellent
type -named Reikle (Christopher
Plummer), swiftly puts two and two
together and belatedly sets out to claim
his booty by whatever grisly means
necessary. Astonishingly, Miles con-
tinues to outwit him at every turn, even
framing his antagonist into jail for a
time. The two men's stealthy beyond-
the-law duel builds by leaps and
sometimes gruesome turns, building to
a climax that might seem ingeniously
satisfying if only the film had even an
ounce of charm in it.
Unfortunately; charm, a mandatory
element in any movie featuring a hero
as ignobly dishonest as his peers, is
ruinously lacking in Silent Partner.
Director Daryl Duke and screenwriter'
Curtis Hanson have contrived through
accident or design to make Miles as
mercenarily unappealing as those
around him, a sycophant among sy-
chopants.
WE LEARN early on that our
protagonist is rather luckless with
women and also that he likes tropical
fish; if Duke could only have included
one endearing scene of Miles bumbling
his way out of a potential date, just one
shot of him making faces at a fish
through the glass of his aquarium, we
might have come to like him enough to
care whether he pulls off his Walter Mit-
ty caper. But as directed, and as played
by Elliott Gould, Miles remains distant,
sour, and unlovable.
Gould's presence (Presumably a
casting sacrifice to lure Americap
audiences) remains a grotesque
anomaly throughout. Shackled with a
character the antithesis of his usual

oafish wisecrackers, the actor seems so
befuddled that he almost ceases per-
forming altogether. His Miles becomes
an immobile, blank-eyed mannequin;
his lips pursed slightly together as if he
were saying a perpetual "Oh!" to the
assembled chicaneries he both obser-
ves and precipitates.
Christopher Plummer, a glorious ac-
tor in a good role but often unbearably
hammy in a bad one, is given too little
motivation and too loose a reign as the
slimy " Reikle. Plummer plays his
character simultaneously half-
supermacho and half-swish, a
fascinating combo in - itself but
shamelessly hotdogish within the context
of anything else in the film. The gorgeous
Celine Lomez radiates appropriate body
heat but little else as Reikle's treacherous
moll, while Susannah York remains a
total mystery as her British accent and
the film's murky sound system render
most of her dialogue inaudible.
Most disappointing is director Daryl
Duke, whose 1973 film Payday is
probably the best unknown movie of the
last decade. During the intervening six
years, Duke seems to have forgotten
everything he ever knew-his scary
scenes carry no menace, his gentle
scenes no joy; his pacing is erratic, his
editing sloppily confused. Duke makes
virtually no cinematic use of his in-
tricate Toronto locale, relying instead
on endless closeups of Plummer
preening, of York and Lomez inhaling
heavily, and of Gould incessantly
imitating a befuddled wombat. Worst of
all, the director's clockwork insertions
of nudity and violence come across,
even in this jaded age, as unmistakably
and venally gratuitous.
It should be noted in passing that The
Silent Partner recently won the
Canadian version of Best Picture
Oscar, perhaps through lack of com-
petition. But lest one dismiss our nor-
thern neighbors as cultural eunuchs,
merely watch any CBC dramatic
production or go to any show at Strat-
ford to see just how masterfully honed
Canadian showbiz can be. Considering
its trans-border mobility, The Silent
Partner isn't just bad cinema, it's
downright bad diplomacy.

No top hat?
Fred Astaire, grandmaster of fleet feet and star of scores of MGM musicals,
celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday. Here he is shown in costume on the
set of "Battlestar Galactica" earlier this year.

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