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George At 

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City Heat


In 1984, Warner Bros. expected their big holiday release CITY HEAT to be a massive blockbuster.

Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were the two biggest box office stars of the day, comedy genius Blake Edwards (10, The Pink Panther) wrote the screenplay and was set to direct.

After Edwards was pushed out of the project, comic actor Richard Benjamin took the chair and Eastwood favorite Joseph Stinson came on to rewrite the script (why?!).

Benjamin had shown some chops with his first directing effort “My Favorite Year” but that film as likely more representative of Peter O’Toole’s brilliance than Benjamins. He doesn’t bring much to the table this time out.

Reynolds broke his jaw and hurt his back early in the filming and it limited his physical movement for the rest of the film, not ideal for an “action comedy”.

Eastwood stars as hardened cop Lieutenant Speer, at odds with Mike Murphy (Reynolds) who left the force under cloudy circumstances. Murphy is a gumshoe now and anytime their paths cross, Speer & Murphy battle with fists and words.

Some of the dialogue is funny and well delivered by Reynolds, but he always seems more like he’s sparring with Clint on the Johnny Carson show than in a 1930’s crime drama/comedy.

Jane Alexander and Madeline Kahn are both terrific in broadly written roles, Rip Torn and Richard Roundtree deliver.

I loved Roundtree and Reynolds detective agency partnership in the film. There was a lot to mine in that partnership, but it’s sadly left unexplored, and Roundtree is gone all too soon.

It all feels very familiar. Rival gang bosses go missing, accounting ledgers are stolen and lots of tommy guns spray the Warner Bros backlot. All the money must have been spent on the cast, as the production looks depressingly cheap.

Eastwood squints winningly, Reynolds pain pills keep his usual screen charm in check and the entire affair stumbles along to a predictable shoot out. With Burt unable to physically do much beyond hide behind period cars, its static and clumsy.

Those two words serve as a pretty good summary of CITY HEAT, which only earns a lukewarm C.

(Don't stay for the end titles, accompanied by one of the worst end credits songs ever. Irene Cara sung "Fame" and "Flashdance" in those 80's hits, but the tune she's given here is as flat as her acting. Oof.)

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