Earlier this year I did a series of posts on my love of heist films, what my favourite ones are, and how they differ from caper films.
The number one rule of a solid heist film is the heist always, always goes wrong, whereas caper films put more emphasis on comedy and the criminals often get away with it.
What to make, then, of the 1978 Canadian film, The Silent Partner?
I’d heard about this film around the traps, never prioritised viewing it because of the star, Elliot Gould, an actor I’ve never much cared for, and what I perceived to be its caper feel.
Wow, was I wrong.
Gould plays Miles Cullen, a teller in a small bank in a large Toronto shopping mall. He’s a boring nobody who secretly lusts after another teller, Julie (played by Susannah York), and whose only passion is collecting tropical fish.
That all changes the day he learns the bank is about to be robbed after finding a discarded note on one the bank’s counters. He quickly deduces that the culprit is a guy in a Santa suit whose working the crowd outside the bank and whose ‘give to charity sign’ is done in the same hand writing as the discarded note.
But instead of telling his boss or going to the cops Miles devises a plan to keep most of the cash from his transactions, thus ensuring that when Santa robs the bank he’ll get far less money.
It’s a bad move. Santa is a career criminal called Harry Reikle (a brilliant and very different performance by Christopher Plummer). Reilke likes to wear mascara and dress in drag. He got a thing for beating up and raping unsuspecting women who attend the local sauna he hangs out at. And it doesn’t take him long to figure out that he take from the robbery is far less than it should be and there’s only person who could have the money.
Reikle embarks on a campaign to intimidate Miles to give him the additional money, a campaign that quickly escalates from threatening calls in the middle of the night too much more serious methods of persuasion. Miles resists, in the process throwing aside his inhibitions and engineering a series of devious counter moves.
It’s virtually impossible to go further without engaging in some major plot spoilers.h. Just go and see it. Seriously, it’s a terrific film that defies being easily categorised into either a heist or caper film. The Silent Partner also has a great seventies period feel, John Candy plays one of Mile’s co-workers, and features the only murder I can remember seeing being committed on screen using a fish tank.