Picks and Pans Review: Stakeout

updated 08/17/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/17/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

With a brutally staged prison break opening and a menacing performance by Aidan (Desperately Seeking Susan) Quinn as a psychopath, this sometimes seems like a powerful crime movie. Sometimes, with Richard Dreyfuss joking nervously to charm beguiling movie newcomer Madeleine Stowe, it seems like a slick romantic comedy. When the two elements collide, however, the film seems like Police Academy Meets Riot in Cell Block 11. There are some laughs when Dreyfuss, as a Seattle police detective, finds himself falling in love with Stowe while he and Emilio (Wisdom) Estevez are staking out her house. (Stowe and Quinn were lovers before he got sent up.) While the role seems a little beneath him at this point, Dreyfuss scampers around energetically as he pretends to be a telephone repairman, trying simultaneously to court Stowe and not tip her off. But there's also a Keystone Kops subplot involving Dreyfuss and Estevez feuding with two other detectives. The harsh contrast between these farcical goings-on and Quinn's inevitable, nightmarish visit to Stowe might have been pulled off if the comedy were funnier and the drama more plausible. Director John (Blue Thunder) Badham and writer Jim (Secret Admirer) Kouf aren't up to it. Much of the film's little humor is unintentional—the diminutive Dreyfuss slugging it out with the muscular Quinn, say. And not much is believable about the plot. That includes the scene of Quinn slicing open Stowe's sofa to retrieve loot he had hidden in the padding. How, one wonders, did he get it in there in the first place: perhaps by cutting a hole, putting the money in and then whipping out his Buttoneer for a few quick stitches? Then again, when a movie like this even lets people start thinking about questions like that, it's time to head for reruns of Hill Street Blues. (R)

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