To observe and protect

Comic plot pays off in serious shocks

Published: Aug 18 2014, 01:01:am

Tuesday, August 4, 1987.
STAKEOUT. Written by Jim Kouf. Music by Arthur B. Rubinstein. Directed by John Badham. Running time: 115 minutes. 14 Years Limited Admission with the B.C. Classifier's warning: some violence, occasional very coarse language and nudity.
MARIA McGUIRE (MADELEINE Stowe) is a pretty lady. Despite good looks and good cooking, though, she's unlucky in love.
     Her current boyfriend is nice but secretive. A telephone repairman, he appeared at her door one night, mere moments after her phone went dead. He says his name is "Bill'' (Richard Dreyfuss).
    Her former boyfriend is more open, but considerably less pleasant. An armed robber, Richard "Stick" Montgomery (Aidan Quinn), has just broken out of Stonehurst Prison, killing a guard in the process.
    Unbeknownst to Maria, her lovers are about to meet. The bad guy is on his way, drawn by the loot that he's hidden away in her flat.
    The good guy, whose real name is Det. Chris Lecce, is waiting for him. Together with his partner, Det. Bill Reimers (Emilio Estevez), Lecce is part of a team assigned to a Stakeout of Maria's home.
    Seattle is a beautiful place. Despite its scenic charms, though, Washington State's Emerald City provided the setting, rather than the locations, for director John (Saturday Night Fever) Badham's bright new suspense comedy.
    The latest feature to showcase the talents of B.C. movie crews, Stakeout was filmed earlier this year in Vancouver, New Westminster and the Fraser Valley. Local filmgoers will have no difficulty spotting such distinctive local landmarks as the B.C. Penitentiary, Campbell Ave.'s Fishermans Wharf, Powell St.'s Sunrise Market or the Expo 86 site.
    For audiences less interested in sightseeing, screenwriter Jim (Secret Admirer) Kouf has provided a Hitchcockian tale, combining flip humour, tension and romance. The story opens with a violent, hard-edged escape sequence introducing the villainous Stick and his accomplice Caylor Reese (Ian Tracey, CBC-TV's Huckleberry Finn).
    As played by bantering Dreyfuss and Estevez, city cops Lecce and Reimers hardly seem up to the challenge. Introduced as likeable but inept, they're seconded to an officious FBI agent named Lusk (Jackson Davies) for the tedious surveillance job.
    The plot thickens when the lovelorn Lecce allows himself to become involved with lonely Miss McGuire. A cute complication, it initially serves as a comic subplot, becoming the basis for some serious shocks in the final reel.
    For Badham, a director with a remarkable talent for gadget-oriented adventures — included among his recent hits are Blue Thunder (1983), WarGames (1983) and Short Circuit  (1986)— Stakeout offered an opportunity to demonstrate his ability to succeed with conventional thriller material.
    The result is a new summer-weight winner in which Vancouver makes the most of its close-up.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1987. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Stakeout was Madeline Stowe's big feature-film break. After nine years honing her craft on television, playing the lady in distress opposite comic cops Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez opened the door to A-list movie roles — co-starring with Jack Nicholson (The Two Jakes; 1990), Daniel Day Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans; 1992), and Bruce Willis (Twelve Monkeys; 1995). Currently she is starring as Victoria Greyson in ABC-TV's successful drama series Revenge. The 1987 cop comedy was just the first of many visits to Vancouver for director John Badham. Following its success, he returned to B.C. for his next feature, the 1990 action comedy Bird on a Wire, with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. He was back in 1993 for Another Stakeout, a cast reunion for the original's stars. His most recent Vancouver visit was to direct a 2014 episode of Supernatural called "First Born."

See also: I may have been unduly harsh when I reviewed John Badham's 1979 adaptation of Dracula.