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Miles Cullen (Elliott Gould) is a somewhat meek, thoughtful bank clerk who turns out to have unsuspected depths of resourcefulness and questionable morality. Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer), a bank robber, is definitely not meek. He's just as resourceful as Miles but also is a murderous psychopath with a taste for beating women. When Harry says to Miles, "One night when you come home you'll find me inside waiting and that will be the night you'll wish you'd never been born," we believe Harry means it. Miles believes it, too, and it's great, nasty fun to see how Miles deals with Harry.

It's Christmas time in Toronto and Miles is at work at his bank branch in a brand new shopping mall. Miles realizes that the jolly Santa outside may be planning to rob the bank. Miles thinks about this. When Santa finally acts a couple of days later, Miles is ready. But Miles is ready with his own plan. He cleverly palms the $50,000 in his bank tray, gives Harry chump change, and only then sets off the silent alarm. Harry barely escapes with little but the assumption from the police that he got away with $50,000. Miles places the money in one of his bank's safe deposit vaults, then plans to wait a while before quitting his job and starting over. In his own quiet way, he hopes that Julie Carver (Susannah York), who also works at the bank and is his bosses mistress, will join him. Harry, however, is smart as well as violent. He realizes what Miles did and finds out where Miles lives. And then Miles gets that phone call one night. All Harry wants is "his" money from Miles, whom he even sees as sort of a partner.

For the next hour or so we are up to our necks in a genuinely creepy and clever heist film. Miles may have been a meek kind of guy, but he's not about to give up that money. He manages to track Harry down, turn the tables on Harry, use a beautiful young woman who is trying to use him, still wants Julie but is not above using her as well, and is forced to deal with a grotesque murder Harry leaves in his room. Elliott Gould does a great job as Miles. This isn't the flip, smart-alecky Gould who wore out his welcome after his great success in MASH. Here, Miles is thoughtful. He collects tropical fish. He's underestimated. Our pleasure in part is trying to think ourselves of what Miles can possibly come up with against a killer like Harry Reikle. Christopher Plummer does not have all the screen time that Gould gets, but he is a powerful, compelling presence. Reikle is not just unpleasant, he really is a controlling psycho. Miles has become his "partner," and he is determined to get the money from Miles and, we are almost sure, will kill Miles. Harry doesn't like being taken advantage of. Plummer has given many excellent performances over the years. Harry Reikle is one of his best.

Curtis Hanson, who wrote (and directed) L. A. Confidential, has given us a screenplay that is almost funny at times, certainly clever with unexpected twists, logical enough to work and just unpleasant enough to be satisfying. There is really only one scene of startling violence, but the jolt comes as much from what we realize has just happened than from what we actually see.

The Silent Partner is a sly, clever and queasy cat-and-mouse game, where at least some aspects of Miles' morals may not be much better than Harry's. I liked the movie a lot. The DVD transfer is okay but nothing special. There are no extras.
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And the award for most misleading DVD cover of the year goes to Lions Gate for The Silent Partner, which scales new heights of dishonesty in its attempts to sell this very smart 1978 Canadian thriller as a Reservoir Dogs heist movie with its image of three black-suited robbers, smoking gun in hand, striding across a US hundred dollar bill, while below even the still of a huge open bank vault is from a completely different movie. By contrast, the film is set in a small shopping mall branch of a Toronto bank which Christopher Plummer's very unpleasant solo bank robber knocks off disguised as Santa Claus only to find that Elliott Gould's clued-in bank teller has pulled a fast one on him and kept $48,000 of the $50,000 haul himself, cuing an increasingly nasty game of cat and mouse where it turns out that the much underestimated Gould's cunning is more than a match for Plummer's cruelty as the stakes constantly rise. Half victim, half apprentice, Gould's boringly inconspicuous everyman finds himself surprisingly adept at crime, taking his lead from Plummer's tactics and excelling at using them against him, and not showing much more concern over any victims that fall violently by the wayside than his tormenter/inadvertent teacher. The nastiness is there but never overplayed in Curtis Hanson's smart screenplay and Daryl Duke's confident direction avoids showing off at the expense of the story. Ingeniously gripping stuff, its well worth checking out - but perhaps not recommended for any tropical fish lovers.

No extras on the Region 1 NTSC DVD, but a decent 1.85:1 widescreen transfer.
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on 14 October 2010
I am amazed that this picture is not more widely known. Not only is it a great "cat-and-mouse" suspense thriller, it also doubles as a Christmas movie. Plummer is at his arrogant and nasty best -- a perfect foil for the mild-mannered bank teller (played by Gould) who must survive by his wits after framing a violent criminal for a crime he committed (Don't worry, I did not give away the ending). A definite must see for mystery fans who like to use their "little gray cells."
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on 6 December 2011
This is such a good thriller...... you will never be able to watch the 'Sound of music' again without thinking that Christopher Plummer is going to cut off Julie Andrew's head!!
Just got that great 70's feel to it without being too out-dated.
Elliot Gould is very good but Christopher Plummer gives a great performance.
Definitely a recommended viewing.
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on 11 January 2014
You don't make them like this anymore !
I had an ancient Pre Cert VHS copy, which nearly snapped- so I reluctantly got rid off it.
Also I remember watching on TV in this in the 80s and I don't think it's been repeated since.
Anyway this is a very bloody movie, but it has a very good plot.
Also both Elliot Gould and Christopher Plummer are exceptional at playing each other off.
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on 17 February 2014
I have been searching for this DVD for a long time before finding it on one of Amazon's partner sellers in the USA so had to wait for delivery but it was worth it. Note this is a Region 1 (USA) DVD so a multi region player is required. If you put this DVD in your PC it will switch the region and you only get 5 changes before region last used is locked into DVD
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on 7 March 2014
gripping story well acted
you will really enjoy this tense film
bet you have to watch it to the end at one
Superb climax
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on 25 October 2010
when i first saw this film, quite a few years ago, Mr. Plummer left an indelible impression upon me. Great film, wonderful acting.
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on 18 February 2015
A brilliant film with a brilliant cast and excellent twists. Black comedy but with some real gore - you have been warned!
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on 1 December 2013
The phycological battle between the Maine characters is the sort of situation that keeps you watching I really enjoyed it
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