Perhaps they weren't at their highest height, but in the early '80s you would struggle to find two cinematic superstars more iconic than Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. Don't get me wrong, we still had plenty of cinematic icons alive and well, but they weren't seemingly at the peak of their powers, whereas Burt and Clint absolutely were. One was The Bandit, and also just Burt, one was Dirty Harry, and so many other memorable characters. Which makes the idea of City Heat a no-brainer.
This was Tango & Cash five years before Tango & Cash, with the added move of making it a period piece, for reasons I still can't quite fathom (although I admit that a couple of fun gags stem from the whole prohibition-era restrictions).
Eastwood is Lieutenant Speer, Reynolds is a private detective named Mike Murphy. The men used to be partners but it's clear from the opening scenes that there's no love lost between them. Murphy has a partner who has unwitingly gotten himself in too deep with some mobsters, Speer is keeping a detached eye on the situation, mainly by keeping an eye on Murphy.
Directed by Richard Benjamin (who I knew as an actor, mainly from the Saturday The 14th films, but was unaware that he has been behind some fun movies, including The Money Pit, Mermaids and My Favourite Year), and written by Blake Edwards and Joseph Stinson, City Heat is a film symptomatic of many that want to pair up two superstars without really knowing how best to use them. There's simple fun to be had just watching any exchange between the fast-talking Reynolds and the much more laconic Eastwood, and there are some good gags here and there (a running joke about hidden alcohol being one, the other involves Eastwood having a supply of larger and larger firearms), but that's about all this has going for it, which is a great shame for all involved. The script should have been full of better lines, the plotting didn't need to seem so convoluted, and there should have been more thought given to creating set-pieces that could involve the two leads.
Eastwood and Reynolds both do very well, and both are much better than the material they have to work with. Jane Alexander and Madeline Kahn are also very good, playing two women who may be inadvertently dragged into the whole dangerous mess. Tony Lo Bianco and Rip Torn play the two mob bosses at odds with one another, and Richard Roundtree, Irene Cara, William Sanderson, and Robert Davi are among the other familiar faces joining in.
Having not seen City Heat since I first watched it on VHS when it was released in the 1980s, I wondered if it would be better or worse than I recall. It turns out that, despite the age of the film and the much older age of myself, I feel pretty much the same way about it as I did way back then. I'll be interested to hear how others view it.
Having never really been given any special treatment on disc, I recommend picking City Heat up with this set.
American fans can pick it up on Bluray here.