I think I’m going to aim this review directly at my Gen-X crowd. It stars Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and even though Eastwood still pops up from time to time with a movie, he and Reynolds were in their acting prime in the 70s and 80s, when the Gen-X crowd was still kids. Sure Baby Boomers would know these two as well, but they’re reaching terminal velocity in the age department now, and a lot of them aren’t into the Internet, so it’s a good bet none of them would ever know of this review. And Millennials won’t know of these two actors either unless their die-hard movie buffs or have Gen-X parents who’re fans.
Sadly this is also another review that tips my hat to how old I am making the flick yet another “memory movie.” Just like The Ice Pirates (1984), which recently got a blu-ray upgrade from Warner, City Heat is another film I had seen back in the heyday of cable and haven’t thought much about since. I had the same reaction when I heard it was getting an upgrade that I did when I heard about The Ice Pirates upgrade. “Holy shit,” I thought, “I remember this movie!”
As you can tell City Heat shares the same year of release as Ice Pirates, and for some reason I kept thinking it was a summer movie. Not so. IMDB says it came out in December, which means I probably didn’t see it on cable until the following year. Back then it took roughly a year from the date of a theatrical release for any movie to reach cable. That would put me roughly in my junior year of high school. For some reason certain movies and TV shows from that time in my life give me this “weird perspective.” It’s been thirty-two years since City Heat came out, and sometimes when I get so far away from a certain point in my life that point in time acquires a kind of dreamy haze making me half wonder if it ever really happened. This movie is giving me that vibe. Was I really ever fifteen? Did all those things I remember from then happen? It’s not an entirely unpleasant sensation, especially when you filter out all the “bad moments,” but now that I’m forty-seven I can say with no uncertain terms being a kid was the best time of my life, and this movie brought all that back to me.
I can’t tell you an exact time and date or even a time of day when I saw City Heat, but I can tell you I saw it a few times. Having just revisited it last night, and seeing it through my forty-seven year old perspective it holds up better than I thought it would. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t own one Eastwood or Reynolds movie. I had plans (still have them mind you) of wanting to add Reynolds’ Sharky’s Machine (1981) and Eastwood’s The Rookie (1990) to my vast DVD collection one day. City Heat is a good start though, since it has both of them in it.
Not having seen this in decades I was struck by several things as the opening credits rolled along. I didn’t know, or had forgotten, Richard Benjamin directed it. I tend to forget he’s also a director. I’m more familiar with him as an actor, especially as the dad in the horror comedy Saturday The 14th (1981), the husband in the still-unreleased-on-DVD horror comedy Witches’ Brew (1980), psychiatrist/vampire slayer, Jeff Rosenberg, in the horror comedy Love At First Bite (1979), and Adam Quark in the science fiction comedy series, Quark (’77-‘78).
I was also struck by how many genre actors are in this movie in small roles: William Sanderson as a mob goon, better known to me in flicks like Black Moon Rising (1986), Blade Runner (1982), Death Hunt (1981), and Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). There’s also Art LaFleur who has a tiny cameo in the very beginning as a goon beating on Reynolds then getting his ass kicked by Eastwood. You may know him better from Trancers (1984) as Jack Deth’s boss and Meg Penny’s father from The Blob (1988). Nicholas Worth and Robert Davi also have small goon roles. Worth I’ll always remember for being in Swamp Thing (1982) first and foremost and Davi had some great parts in a ton of movies including Predator 2 (1990), The Goonies (1985), Raw Deal (1986), Peacemaker (1990), and Maniac Cop 2 (1990) to name just a few. I sometimes get him and Andrew Divoff confused. They could be brothers.
In the major roles you’ve got two you’ll recognize more from their genre outings. Rip Torn plays mob boss, Primo Pit, but I’ll always connect him with The Beastmaster (1981) and Extreme Prejudice (1987), and then you’ve got Richard Roundtree playing ill-fated private dick, Dehl Swift, who was David Carradine’s ill-fated partner in the monster movie, Q, The Winged Serpent (1982). Last but not least is Madeline Kahn as socialite, Caroline Howley, Reynolds’ love interest, but more better known to me for being in Young Frankenstein (1974) and Clue (1987), despite having seen her in a ton of movies as well.
City Heat is an action/comedy/drama that takes place in Kansas City, 1933. Burt Reynolds is gumshoe, Mike Murphy, and Clint Eastwood is Lieutenant Spear. At one time these two guys were best friends and both cops. Eastwood still is. It’s never explained in the movie, but at some point they had a falling out and Murphy quit the force. Now Murphy is a private dick with a partner, Dehl Swift (Roundtree), and a secretary, Addy (Jane Alexander), who ends up being Spear’s love interest, but they’re not too good at bringing in the clients and are always behind on anything that involves payments. One day Swift comes in with enough money to catch up on their rent and Addy’s paycheck, but Murphy is suspicious. He knows Swift too well. If he’s got money, he got it illegally.
There are two mob bosses in this city, Primo Pit (Torn) and Leon Coll (Tony Lo Bianco), Swift was working for Pitt, and he’s now in possession of a Coll’s bookkeeper’s ledger that would obviously implicate him and bring down Coll had it gotten into the cop’s hands. But he wants to sell it to Coll for large amount, and double cross Pitt. He’s also in love with lounge singer, Ginny Lee (Irene Cara), which also factors into his plans. I got the impression he wanted to make a big score and then take off with her. It never worked out. Complications arise and Swift is killed, but Ginny was a witness and that ledger is now missing. Finding them both is a priority.
The movie mostly focuses on Murphy, but as it revs up and he and Spear stop fighting and get their shit together we get to see them working together and kicking ass. Killing ass too, I should stress, but in a PG kind of way. The movie is rated PG, yet still has some intense shoot ‘em up scenes. Chemistry was good, I thought, between the less serious Murphy and the by-the-book Spear. Action scenes in general were very well staged, especially the one where goons from both Coll and Pitt converge on Murphy’s apartment and begin shooting at each other as well as trying to kill Murphy. Spear watches calmly from his car in the distance, until he gets pissed when a stray bullet fucks up his windshield. Now there’s hell to pay, so he retrieves his shotgun, gets out of the car and calmly walks down the middle of the street towards the bad guys. That’s a pretty damn good scene.
It’s actually a good blend of action, drama and comedy. I highly recommend it. And the only movie Reynolds and Eastwood ever made together too.
Warner has previously released City Heat several times, first in 2003, then in 2009 as part of a Clint Eastwood triple feature, and then finally in 2010. This past Tuesday marks its blu-ray debut!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 French Dolby Digital, 2.0 German Dolby Digital, 2.0 Spanish Dolby Digital, 2.0 Spanish Dolby Digital, 2.0 Portuguese Dolby Digital, 2.0 Czech Dolby Digital, 2.0
Polish Dolby Digital, 2.0 Japanese: Dolby Digital—Czech, English SDH, French, German SDH, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
I have not to date seen, or reviewed, any Warner Brothers blu-ray that didn’t deliver the goods visually and audibly. I’ve never owned any of the City Heat DVDs, so I can’t compare this to them, but this blu looked really good!
Extra included . . .
- Theatrical Trailer
While watching City Heat I kept getting flashes of another 1930s period movie Warner owns I wish they’d put out. Cast A Deadly Spell (1991), a made-for-cable supernatural (aka Lovecraftian) crime noir that’s never been released on disc, bears some similarities to City Heat. Aside from the similar time period the detective in Spell is also looking for a “book” that the bad guys want, and there’s also a lounge singer that ends up being important to both the hero and the bad guys. In Heat this club has a big, black guy as the sole bouncer. Spell has a similar bouncer, but he’s a resurrected corpse. Just thought I’d mention this in case any WB employees with pull end up reading this.