Top positive review
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Excellent, queasy, nasty and great fun, with fine performances by Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer
on 22 June 2007
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.