Directed by Richard Benjamin
In 1933 Kansas City, a detective must solve the murder of his partner. That is it.
Mike Murphy, P.I. (Burt Reynolds) is a former police officer who has decided to become a private investigator. He is a bit burnt out yet still manages to have all the usual character traits Reynolds was known for.
Lieutenant Speer (Clint Eastwood) is still a cop. He holds a bit of a grudge against Mike for walking away. Eastwood by this point had mastered an “I Don’t Like You” tone to his voice when acting and every word comes out dripping with dislike towards Mike.
The main reason to watch this movie is that they paired Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood and they were paired in their prime. It is great to see them play off of each other. When they are together that is when this movie works. The rest of the time it just kind of works.
City Heat is not a bad movie, but it just seems to be missing a step. Something that should be there is not, and I cannot quite place it. The script felt a bit uneven as if it could not decide between being a noir or a lighter comedy. Blake Edwards wrote the script (but used pseudonym) and was set to direct when at the last minute it was handed over to Richard Benjamin. This could be the issue. If it had remained in the same creative hands from start to finish things might have been different.
I liked watching Eastwood and Reynolds together, but truth be told I am not sure if there is too much that is memorable in this movie. Both are basically playing their personas of the time here and that is good. That is what you want. When they are on screen together it works very well. But as far as story goes this is all kind of muddled. At times it feels like less a story and more of an excuse for Reynolds and Eastwood to do their schtick to each other.
The story itself feels a little clunky and kind of meanders. There are ledgers and mobsters left and right, but it does not feel as if it comes into any real focus with a beginning, middle, and end. It is not even clear what is in the ledgers and what it is all about. After watching the film, I am not sure what those ledgers affect. It is some scheme involving Richard Roundtree’s character but if it is clearly mentioned it’s only clearly mentioned at the very beginning and not at all again.
Diehl Swift (Richard Roundtree) is the shady partner of Mike. Exactly how he connects to Mike is not too clear. He appears to be basically bankrolling the whole operation since it looks like Mike has absolutely no business. Why he would do this or how they came to know one another is a mystery. I am not sure what this connection exactly is as the director either never included it failed to make its revelation notable.
Roundtree has an undeniable on-screen charisma. He takes ownership of the film during his short time in it. He is perhaps the best part of this movie and that is a shame since his character is not central but rather there to get things started.
At the beginning of City Heat there appears to be a romance between Mike and his secretary Addy (Jane Alexander) but that kind of drifts away and Speer starts romancing her. It was just like that with no explanation as if part way through filming someone changed the plot. Mike moves on to Caroline Howley (Madeline Kahn). What exactly her character is or does is not really clear. She is shady but how shady or consistently shady is not clear. She is just more a plot device to help wrap up the film’s finale than an actual character.
Diehl Swift is connected to sultry nightclub singer Ginny Lee (Irene Cara). That Irene Cara. “Oh, What A Feeling” from Flashdance Irene Cara. That is a little better established than some of the other relationships in this film. He is a club regular and that is how they met. Cara unfortunately is more than a bit wooden here. She is stiff and at times looks uncomfortable.
We have competing mob factions that seem to be competing for no good reason in the context of the film other than to give Reynold problems. They just make his life difficult and though they are after the ledgers their involvement in everything as well as their existence feels almost incidental.
I enjoyed City Heat but more for the pairing of two icons than anything else. City Heat was so much less than it could have been given the cast. It is not a bad film, but it is not something you really need to see. You will like it but most likely will not revisit.