Monday 13 September 2021

Movie Review: The Silent Partner (1978)

A suspense thriller with dollops of hardened violence, The Silent Partner is a clever and twisty story with two very different thieves engaging in an unforgiving duel.

In Toronto, bachelor Miles Cullen (Elliot Gould) is a senior cashier at a bank located within a large mall. A collector of exotic fish, Miles is quiet and appears boring, but he is also observant. His married boss Packard (Michael Kirby) is having an affair with floor manager Julie (Susannah York), who is interested in Miles but can't quite figure him out. 

With Christmas approaching, Miles outsmarts Santa Clause-disguised bank robber Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer), who gets away with little money while Miles pockets the best part of $50,000 without anyone noticing. As a bonus, Miles also becomes a media celebrity for his heroics in thwarting the crime.

Miles hides the stolen money in a safe deposit box, but Reikle is a vicious criminal who will stop at nothing to recover what he perceives as his take. He starts intimidating Miles, triggering a dangerous battle of wits between the two men. Meanwhile Miles' romantic prospects brighten when sprightly nurse Elaine (Celine Lomez) enters his life.

A Canadian production, The Silent Partner adapts the novel by Danish writer Anders Bodelsen with unrepentant deviousness. The Curtis Hanson script succeeds in creating a protagonist out of an almost accidental thief, and director Daryl Duke delivers a Hitchcockian chess match between two men simply unwilling to yield, all played against an Oscar Peterson music score with a wicked undercurrent of humour and malevolence holding hands.

Miles is easy to underestimate, a trait he uses to his advantage. His theft is surprisingly simple, trading on honest demeanour to pin the entire blame on Reikle. But a man willing to dress up as Santa Clause to rob a bank will not just accept his humiliation. In one of his scariest screen roles, Christopher Plummer creates a ruthless villain. His early assault on a sex partner appears vicious, but fades into insignificance when Reikle later reveals the true depths of his barbarism, providing The Silent Partner with a memorable and shocking jagged edge.

Accompanying the criminality are two romantic stories to provide a breather from impropriety. Julie knows she is wasting her time having an affair with the sleazy Packard. But unaware of what Miles is up to, she cannot get him to focus. Enter Elaine, who is quickly more successful worming her way into Miles' heart and bed and helping him with an awkward predicament, while carrying secrets of her own. 

The Silent Partner teases with the premise that crime maybe could pay when the victim is a criminal, and demonstrates with delightfully perilous convolutions.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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