C is for City Heat (1984)

Kansas City, 1933. After his partner is murdered, private investigator Mike Murphy (Burt Reynolds) tries to solve the case and take down the mob while his former friend Lieutenant Speer (Cint Eastwood) does the same.

City Heat is marketed as a buddy comedy set in the prohibition era and if often feels like it’s not a particularly great parody rather than an entertaining action comedy. I say parody as there one scene in particular where Speer shoot a guy multiple times and he continues walking and shooting far longer than he realistically would be able to. Yes, realism isn’t always there in action films (people never running out of bullets or stopping to reload) but this was super noticeable.

The small moments of comedy that worked for me was when there was a play on words. For example, when threatening one of the mobsters Speer asks, “You know what an ‘ilk’ is don’t ya?” and he replies, “A big deer?” and I don’t know why but that really tickled me. The more physical comedy didn’t work for me at all but Eastwood’s dry delivery of some lines did make me crack a smile.

A main selling point of City Heat probably was Reynolds and Eastwood and having these two genre legends share the screen. Unfortunately, they don’t actually do that a lot. While it might be marketed as their solving the crime together, they’re actually both individually trying to figure out what happened and, bar the opening scene and the final showdown, their paths only briefly cross now and then. A lot of the time they shoot a couple of barbs at one another, refuse to be honest about what they know and then go off to follow their own leads. The opening sequence did have some potential as it showed off the difference between Murphy and Speer. Murphy likes to think he’s a smooth talker and a charmer while Speer is more stoic and drier. It was a cliched juxtaposition that worked but then they spent the next hour barely together at all.

Murphy’s partner Dehl Swift (Richard Roundtree) does a whole load of double-crossing various people including mobsters. Because all of these members of the mob were dressed the same and looked similar, it was kind of hard to keep track of who’s who and who was the guy at the top of the food chain. The fact that I found myself not particularly caring about the plot or the characters probably was part of the reason I wasn’t really following who was who and instead was getting bored.

The women in City Heat aren’t that great as most of them are there to be love interests or to be kidnapped – or both. But I have to say I did like Addy (Jane Alexander), Murphy’s secretary and friend, a lot. She was smart with a great wry sense of humour and her comedic timing was probably the best out of everyone.

One decent character and a few dry quips from Eastwood doesn’t make City Heat a worthwhile watch unfortunately. The plot is often incomprehensible and dull and a lot of the shootouts are long, repetitive and just not interesting to watch either so when the action starts you’re still not entertained. City Heat tries to be an action film and a comedy and it doesn’t really achieve either. If Reynolds and Eastwood were on screen together more then the little sparks of chemistry seen when they were together might’ve made it more enjoyable but alas, they weren’t so it wasn’t. 1/5.

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