City Heat

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City Heat
Promotional film poster
Directed by Richard Benjamin
Produced by Tony Adams
Screenplay by Blake Edwards
(as Sam O. Brown)
Joseph C. Stinson[1]
Story by Blake Edwards
(as Sam O. Brown)
Music by Lennie Niehaus
Cinematography Nick McLean
Edited by Jacqueline Cambas
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • December 7, 1984 (1984-12-07)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[2][3]
Box office $38,300,000

City Heat is a 1984 American action crime-comedy film starring Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, written by Blake Edwards, and directed by Richard Benjamin. The film was released in North America in December 1984.

The pairing of Eastwood and Reynolds was thought to have the potential to be a major hit but the film earned only $38.3 million at the box office, against a $25 million budget.


In Kansas City, 1933, police lieutenant Speer goes to a diner for coffee. Two men arrive, looking for a former cop turned private eye named Mike Murphy. Speer and Murphy were good friends, until Murphy left the force. The men pounce on Murphy the minute he arrives. Speer ignores them until a goon causes him to spill his coffee. Both goons are thrown through the front door. Murphy sarcastically thanks Speer for saving his life.

The two rivals have eyes for Murphy's secretary Addy. She loves both and proves it when, after tenderly kissing Murphy goodbye, goes on a date with Speer. Murphy has a new romantic interest, a rich socialite named Caroline Howley, but finds himself unable to commit.

Speer and Addy go to a boxing match at which the mob boss Leon Coll is present. Murphy's partner Diehl Swift is also there, and seems to be in cahoots with Primo Pitt and his gang. Swift is in possession of a briefcase, whose contents are supposed to be the accounting records of Coll's operations. The ledgers are the target of both Pitt's and Coll's gangs. Coll’s financial records are actually in the possession of his bookkeeper, who met and colluded with Swift earlier at the Club where Ginny sings.

Swift leaves the boxing ring, tailed by Speer and Addy, and is confronted by Pitt and his thugs at his apartment with Ginny Lee who is taken hostage. Ginny Lee manages to escape but Swift is killed during a struggle with Pitt. A thug opens the briefcase but it's empty. He picks up Swift's body and throws it out the window, where it lands on the roof of Speer's parked car (which is occupied by the horrified Addy, who waits after Speer goes to investigate in the apartment).

Murphy vows revenge on Pitt for killing his partner. He asks Speer for assistance and they form an alliance. After meeting with Murphy at a movie, Ginny is confronted by Pitt's thugs outside the theater. As she tries to escape, she is hit by a car and seriously injured.

After Murphy shows Addy the “laundry” which contains the missing financial records, two goons blow bullet holes through the door. Then a huge gun fight breaks out on the street below. Murphy hides and the rival thugs battle it out until one puts a round through Speer's car windshield. Speer pulls out a 12 gauge shotgun and finishes the fight. Murphy and Speer vow to avenge Ginny and also to rescue Caroline, who has been kidnapped by Pitt's gang to force Murphy to hand over the missing records. A final showdown with Pitt and his gang occurs in a warehouse.

In a high class bordello Speer and Murphy rescue Caroline. Coll shows up holding Addy at gunpoint and demands his records. Murphy hands over the briefcase in exchange for Addy, but the case is booby-trapped. Coll's car is blown up with him in it.



Blake Edwards co-wrote the script, initially titled Kansas City Blues.[4] He originally wrote the script in the 1970s while living in Switzerland. "I really wrote the story for myself," says Edwards. "But when Julie read it, she thought it was the best thing I'd done and over the years friends urged me to film it. So to see it turned into something completely different was very painful for me."[5]

Edwards was the original director of the film, but he was fired early on and replaced with Richard Benjamin. He retained co-writing credit under the pseudonym "Sam O. Brown," the initials of which were "S.O.B.," a reference to his earlier film.[4]

"The whole thing was such a horrendous experience it could have come right out of S.O.B.," said Edwards. "In fact it inspired me to write S.O.B. 2."[5]

Reynolds later recalled:

If you could just release the announcement for City Heat and not have to look at the film, it'd be the most successful picture I'd ever been in. Blake laid out his way for Clint to play his part. To me, it was clearly apparent that Blake's way was in no way how Clint saw the part. Clint didn't say anything except his Gary Cooper comments like 'Yup' and 'Nope.' Clint and I went home in his truck and he still didn't say anything until we were halfway there. Finally he said, 'I guess this won't be the film we do together.' I said, 'I didn't think so.' Warner Bros. really wanted to make the film. I think they thought like I did that it would be one of those pictures which would look great in the catalogue... Clint likes a director he gets along with, which makes a lot of sense to me... Blake's dismissal hurt him badly. I don't think he's ever gotten over it.[6]

Eastwood was cast as the lead and received a $4 million salary.[7]

Filming began in February 1984. On the first day, Reynolds was accidentally hit in the face with a metal chair during a fight scene.[2] His jaw was broken and he was restricted to a liquid diet, causing him to lose over 30 pounds by the time filming wrapped. His condition made headlines in the tabloids, which speculated he had AIDS.[8][9]


Clint Eastwood, a jazz aficionado, is one of the pianists heard on the film's jazz-oriented soundtrack.[10]

Release and reception[edit]

City Heat was released in United States theaters in December 1984. It grossed $38.3 million at the North American box office.[11] The film was nominated for a Razzie Awards including Worst Actor for Reynolds.[12]

Reynolds later recalled:

Ten days after shooting began, I knew I was going to take the fall. Clint was playing formula Clint that always worked for Clint. I was playing Jack Lemmon in this strange film where people were getting blown away. I never read a review of the film, because I knew I was going to get killed by the critics. The public wanted "Boom Town" or to see us in a contemporary film. They didn't want "Dirty Harry vs. the Wimp." It's regrettable the material wasn't there, because Hollywood or maybe just Warner Bros. will never let Clint and I act together again.[6]

The film received lackluster reviews and critics expressed their disappointment with the script and the pairing of the two star actors. At Rotten Tomatoes, 10 of the 13 reviewers cited gave the film a "rotten" review.[13] Roger Ebert gave the film half a star, asking "How do travesties like this get made?"[14]

Janet Maslin was more positive, saying "overdressed and overplotted as it is, City Heat benefits greatly from the sardonic teamwork of Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. Without them the film would be eminently forgettable, but their bantering gives it an enjoyable edge." According to Maslin:

[T]he film ... manages to be both cumbersome and slight. As he did in My Favorite Year and, to some extent, in Racing with the Moon, Richard Benjamin has settled on an evocative time period and a top-notch cast and more or less left things at that. City Heat devotes much more energy to props, sets and outfits than to the dramatic streamlining it so badly needed. The screenplay, which is part Sting, part Sam Spade and part kitchen sink, is either a hopelessly convoluted genre piece or a much too subtle take-off on the same.[15]


  1. ^ "Review - City Heat". Variety. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  2. ^ a b Hughes, p.73
  3. ^ Munn, p. 200
  4. ^ a b Hughes, p.72
  5. ^ a b MOVIES: EDWARDS' YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Nov 1984: x21.
  6. ^ a b Modderno, Craig (January 4, 1987). "Burt Reynolds is the Comeback Kid". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 18, 2016. 
  7. ^ Hughes, p.74
  8. ^ Eliot, p.216
  9. ^ Hirschberg, Lynn (1996-06-16). "Deliverance". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-28. 
  10. ^ Tosches, Nick. "Nick Tosches on Clint Eastwood". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  11. ^ Hughes, p.75
  12. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 
  13. ^ "City Heat". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "City Heat". Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 7, 1984). "Benjamin Directs City Heat". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 


External links[edit]