A Movie A Day: PARTNERS (1982) You don’t want to work with Kerwin because you’re scared. He’s gay. He might rape you.
Published at: Aug. 10, 2008, 9:28 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
John Hurt bridges us from yesterday’s bizarre slice of ‘70s fairy tale THE PIED PIPER to today’s early ‘80s buddy cop comedy PARTNERS.
Don’t go! I know, I saw the cover, too, and almost didn’t put it on the queue. Ultimately, the name of John Hurt kept it on the list.
I didn’t read the back cover or look up a plot synopsis until I threw it in the DVD player and checked the runtime. (BTW a note to Legend Pictures: Please, in the future, don’t put a picture of one of your two leads lying on the ground with a giant bullet-hole in their stomach on the back of the goddamn DVD). Even then I didn’t read the text, just glanced at the pictures and the DVD information.
So I had no idea that this movie was set in the gay community… or rather the stereotypical gay community of the early ‘80s. You have gay models being murdered, one of whom is the son of a prominent newspaper man, so suddenly the cops are being pressured to investigate, which is kind of shitty anyway. They don’t give a crap about the gay community until it affects them.
The Chief (played by great ‘70s and ‘80s character actor Kenneth McMillan, who you’ll remember as playing either a chief or sheriff in ARMED AND DANGEROUS and SALEMS LOT as well as the Baron in DUNE) forms an unlikely partnership with a semi-closeted gay desk jockey (Hurt) and ladykilling Detective (Ryan O’Neal).
There were buddy cop movies before this film (including one of my favorite of all time, FREEBIE & THE BEAN, still not out on DVD), but I find it interesting that this one hit just before 48 HOURS kicked off one of the biggest sub-genres of the ‘80s that resulted in the LEATHAL WEAPON and BEVERLY HILLS COP franchises.
And this movie isn’t half bad. I’d even go so far as to say I enjoyed it quite a bit, but maybe that had to do my expectation more than the quality of the film. I can’t really determine that until I rewatch it in a year or so.
Sure, I get the feeling that this film will date like many of the racist cartoons and musicals of the ‘30s and ‘40s. The homosexual community represented here all fit into the same lisping, fey and/or mustached Village Person persona, but the overall message hopefully transcends that.
Hurt and O’Neal don’t make a bad comedic pair, actually. O’Neal’s definitely the straight man (in all ways) and homophobe who has to learn his life lesson by the end of the movie. It’s predictable, no doubt, but the movie actually makes you care about the two cops as they Odd Couple it, keeping their gay couple cover while investigating the murders.
The actual cop aspect of it, the investigation, is convoluted and a bit on the convenient side, but that’s not the point of the movie. The crimes are all a backdrop for the central message of tolerance, which would come off as preachy if Hurt and O’Neal didn’t work so well together.
Maybe the movie will play horribly for you having me say anything good about it in advance… maybe I liked it because it didn’t make me want to pop my eyeballs and shove pencils in my ears like I expected it to. Or maybe there is something to the movie that stands on its own.
It’s certainly not as enjoyable as 48 HOURS or any of the other buddy cop movies I’ve mentioned in this installment of AMAD, but I found it surprisingly entertaining. I laughed constantly throughout, but I’m the first to admit that my comedy tastes are a little on the odd side. Some stupid shit makes me laugh, but I usually realize that I’m laughing at something I really shouldn’t be and I didn’t find that sensation here.
The flick was directed by a guy named James Burrows who has a lot of credits, but a quick IMDB scan seems to reveal this is the only feature he ever directed. There’s not much style to the direction, but shit cut together and the actors do well, so I won’t give him any grief. The writer, interestingly enough, is Francis Veber, who also wrote the original La Cage aux folles (which was later remade as THE BIRDCAGE).
Final Thoughts: My ‘80s nostalgia was in overdrive, seeing some great ‘80s faces listed above as well as Sydney Lassick (from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and ALIGATOR) in a formulaic buddy cop flick. I found some real laughs to be had as well as another great performance by John Hurt who somehow both plays into the gay stereotype and gives the character a few extra dimensions. So far this is the best of the Legend Films DVDs we’ve gone through.