Created by Sam O. Brown (pseud. of Blake Edwards)
Burt Reynolds is MICHAEL MURPHY, a 1930's down on his luck Kansas City P.I., reluctantly teamed-up with former Homicide partner Clint Eastwood, as Speer, in the 1984 film City Heat, directed by Richard Benjamin.
When Murphy's partner Dehl Swift (Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, ) is killed in a blackmail/double cross scheme gone wrong, gang war between local mob bosses Primo Pitt (Rip Torn) and Leon Coll (Tony Lo Bianco) breaks out. Murphy is thrown into the middle, along with his ex-partner and ex-friend, Lieutenant Speer (Eastwood).
Although buddies Eastwood and Reynolds had peaked as Hollywood's leading-leading men by the time City Heat was made, the vehicle should have been a sure-fire winner, with a talented supporting cast (which also included Madeline Kahn as Murphy's heiress-girlfriend and Jane Alexander as his long-suffering secretary and Speer's love interest), Eastwood's own jazz songs as period music, and a story by the man responsible for both Peter Gunn and The Pink Panther.
Sure-fire, however, became misfire. I'm not a talented enough film critic to recognize exactly what went wrong; suffice it to say something did. Reynolds played Reynolds -- this time in a trench coat and fedora instead of a Trans-Am -- but managed to pull off elegant and seedy without over-the-top smugness; Eastwood was wonderfully self-deprecating as a taciturn, terror-inducing homicide dick whose eye begins to twitch whenever he is bumped. And there's a great gunfight scene in which Murphy discards one semi-auto after another, each bigger than the previous one, only to be out-done by Speer, who manages to pull out and empty larger and larger revolvers...
But the movie just doesn't work. Not terrible. But not terribly memorable, either. City Heat was regrettably luke-warm.
Ironcially, it was during a fight scene that Reynolds suffered the TMJ-producing jaw injury that would plague his health and nearly end his career. And although Eastwood's best work as a filmmaker was still ahead of him, in a larger context, City Heat was the swan-song of Eastwood and Reynolds as de facto tough guys.
Respectfully submitted by H. Kelly Levendorf.
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