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It's Not about Going Out for Dinner
by Jon Schuller

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Movie titles – like other art forms - are sometimes purposely vague or misleading. Comedies are an excellent example: did anyone really believe that we were going to see actual saddles blazing ? Or, when someone is dressed up, do they always kill? Is something or someone great just because it says so? As far as I know, most cops are still human beings, not robots. How many places are in your heart? There were only Ten Commandments, despite what Mel Brooks showed us. Whatever the movie type, titles are important and can fool us. But we go and watch them regardless. I enjoy detective and police fiction, especially when it's portrayed on the Big Screen. How to dramatize what law enforcement people go through on the job and in their private lives makes for interesting films and some memorable roles. One of these films I like, that do this well, is Stakeout, released in August, 1987. Directed by John Badham, it starred Richard Dreyfuss as Detective Chris Lecce, Emilio Estevez as Detective Bill Reimers, Aidan Quinn as
Richard "Stick" Montgomery and Madeleine Stowe as Maria McGuire. Forest Whitaker shares the bill as Detective Jack Pismo and Dan Lauria portrays Detective Phil Coldshank. Lecce and Reimers, two jokester types, have been assigned to watch McGuire because her boyfriend, Montgomery, has recently escaped from prison. The FBI is involved because the bad guys are trying to get to Seattle to recover money from a bank robbery.

The two detectives watch Maria's home, expecting Montgomery to show up at her door any day and they'll arrest him. What starts as another dull and dreary round-the-clock assignment soon turns into something no one expected. They tap her phone lines and Lecce introduces himself to her, in person, as a telephone company lineman to make repairs. He's in an emotionally bad way because his wife has recently left him. Maria is beautiful and smart and Lecce realizes he's falling in love with her. His partner has to keep warning him that his antics – like being in her house during a night of sex, and not
across the street where he's supposed to be watching her – will get them both into major trouble. Chris is starting to look like a friend of Montgomery and the Seattle cops are getting suspicious.

Montgomery and Caylor break into Maria's house as Lecce sleeps in her bed. They see him there and shoot him. Chris wakes up, realizing it was a nightmare – and that he is in her house, in her bed and not where he should be. He sneaks out of the house and runs a circuitous route back to the stakeout house. Bill covers for him but when they get back to the station, he makes Chris promise to tell Maria the truth before it's too late.

The bad guys are on a killing spree but run into the Seattle police in a shoot-out, then a chase where their car crashes into the river. Montgomery narrowly escapes but Caylor drowns. Montgomery, although hurt, gets to Maria's house, gets the drop on Chris and Bill as he tells Maria he was going to take her away along with the hidden money. But Detective Lecce ruined his plans. At a paper
mill, there's a shoot-out, Montgomery is killed and the film ends as Chris and Maria continue their relationship.

It's a well-made movie. It stays away from clichés as we soon learn about the two main male characters, who always make jokes about their dangerous jobs. I love Richard Dreyfuss. He's one of my favorites. I enjoyed his performance as the pilot in Always. I think he was perfectly cast here as the senior detective who, with his distinctive laugh, shows us a man wrestling every day with major problems, both personal and professional. Emilio Estevez has to try and balance his partner out by being the sane and in-control cop – or at least making the effort.

The headliners and their supporting cast make this movie at once funny and deadly serious. How many men in their position as law enforcement officers have been pulled apart by their jobs interfering with their private lives? How do they balance the dangers with the temptations? I think these tried-and-true themes are dealt with rather intelligently in Stakeout.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.


Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Disorganized Crime

Has Anything Changed in 50 Years?

I'm Climbing, Damn It. OK?

The Time Machine for Everyone

A Momentous Year for Movies and Me.

All Columns


Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for over 26 years.I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 47 years (as of December 22, 2015) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).



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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.


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