Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Silent Partner

(Daryl Duke, 1978)
Since this is the lazy man's example of quality Canadian filmmaking in the tax shelter era, it's worth pointing out that Christopher Plummer doesn't quite cut it as a psychotic criminal. His steely glare keeps breaking to reveal the cultured softness underneath, and where his brutalization of women is completely off the handle, he keeps letting Elliott Gould off the hook. If these contradictions are intended as commentary then they don't quite work, and the resulting confusion raises some dangerous credibility issues in what is otherwise an airtight cat-and-mouse contraption. Curtis Hanson's script is so clever and compelling, so full of memorable detail, it leaves all comparable rom-com action films in the dust, and if Daryl Duke doesn't keep Plummer in full control, maybe it's because he was busy reining in Gould, who gives one of his best, most focused, least Gouldish performances. There are unresolved tensions between the scenario's brutal cynicism and the shaggy-dog tendencies of the production, but the newly built Eaton's Centre makes a great location, Duke makes the most of his wonderful ensemble cast, and Oscar Peterson's orchestral discords play brilliantly off the Christmas carols that set the ironic scene.

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