Wednesday 7 August 2019

Movie Review: Stakeout (1987)

A police buddy comedy with action and romance, Stakeout benefits from star charisma but remains a shallow exercise in lightweight entertainment.

Violent criminal Richard "Stick" Montgomery (Aidan Quinn) breaks out of prison with help from his cousin Caylor Reese (Ian Tracey). In Seattle, police detectives Chris Lecce (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill Reimers (Emilio Estevez) are assigned to stake out the house of Montgomery's ex-girlfriend Maria McGuire (Madeleine Stowe) on the chance he may try to reconnect with her.

Chris and Bill try to fight off boredom by trading juvenile pranks with fellow stakeout detectives Pismo (Forest Whitaker) and Coldshank (Dan Lauria). With his wife having just left him, Chris starts to get attracted to Maria, and finds excuses to get into her house pretending to be a phone repair technician. They start a romantic relationship without Maria knowing who Chris really is. Meanwhile, Montgomery evades law enforcement and makes his way ever closer to Seattle.

A prototypical 1980s high concept blockbuster, Stakeout relies much more on glitz and magnetism than plot and logic. Written by Jim Kouf and directed by John Badham, the film sketches in characters and events with the broadest brushes, then relies on Richard Dreyfuss and to a lesser extent Emilio Estevez to deliver the laughs and thrills.

The premise of spying on an available beautiful woman then falling in love with her is a young boy's voyeuristic dream scenario, and Badham is happy to exploit the juvenile opportunities on offer. Maria undresses and showers on cue as demanded by prying eyes, and falls in love quickly with the mysterious telephone repair man who appears at exactly the right moments.

The villain Montgomery is the extreme definition of ruthlessly one-dimensional, and as such a good catalyst for danger to coalesce around him. When it comes time for action Badham delivers the requisite jolts of adrenaline, including a couple of over-the-top car chases and a climax at a lumber processing plant with lethal machinery at work.

Despite the dreadful soundtrack filled with lame 1980s pop rock, the movie is delivered with slick proficiency augmented by banter and comic touches courtesy of inter-police prankterism. And at the middle of Stakeout is Dreyfuss, a long way from his classic roles but infusing much needed doses of quality. Neither the actor nor the movie aim for much beyond basic fun, and both do enough to maintain active surveillance.

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