THE SILENT PARTNER is milquetoast Toronto bank teller ‘Miles Cullen’ (Elliott Gould), who steps out of character by taking a smart but wild risk during Christmas to deftly hijack a bank robbery executed by a fellow dressed as a mall Santa Claus. His new-found coolness attracts the interest of an alluring co-worker (Susannah York), but also draws murderous rage from the frustrated robber ‘Harry Reikle’ (Christopher Plummer). As things further complicate, a sexy nurse (Céline Lomez) who’d been caring for Miles’ dying father, turns up to seduce Miles. But she’s really working for Harry.
“I’m just going to give you a little time… to try to be reasonable. If you decide you’re not going to be reasonable, then one night when you come home, you’ll find me inside, waiting for you. And that will be the night you’ll wish you’d never been born.”
It’s a great plot, with a number of intriguing twists, standard 70s gratuitous nudity from the actresses (no complaints, but none of it was necessary) and some jarring violence, including one of the more vicious killings in a decade stocked with them. York’s always welcome, and French-Canadian pop singer Lomez (from the sleeper Gina) is a sultry charmer. Plummer’s sadistic villain earns applause. As for Elliott Gould, I just can’t buy him. York’s character says at one point “I don’t understand you, Miles. And I’m not sure I want to“, and that sums up my oft-expressed impression of the actor: he never convinces me. His fans will enjoy his work here, but, pros or cons of his acting to the side, as his part is written, it’s a stretch to see how either of the willing and nubile women in the story could see much in a smarmy schlub like Miles.
Directed by Daryl Duke, scripted by Curtis Hanson, adapted from “Think Of A Number”, a 1968 book written by Danish author Anders Bodelsen. A version with that title was done in 1969, in Denmark, featuring Bibi Andersson.
Duke had great success directing The Thorn Birds for TV, but his feature film career was spotty, with the unpleasant Payday and the crushing flop Tai-Pan. Hanson went on to major success with The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and the classic L.A. Confidential. This sleeper pulled good reviews, but distribution was limited; it’s a favorite of a number of respected critics. CineSavant’s Glenn Erickson champions it, which was good enough for me to check it out. I like the film, but, try as I might, I can never warm up to Gould.
Small-scale production cost around $2,500,000 Canadian dollars back in ’78, approximately $8,800,000 today (something like $6,722,000 US?). Limited release in the States saw it grossing only $900,000, languishing on 127th place for the year. It did much better in Canada.
27-year-old John Candy has a small part as one of the bank employees. Legendary jazz musician Oscar Peterson composed the score, the only one he ever did for a feature film. Cinematography by Billy Williams. 106 minutes.