Taking the Heat

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“Because the more accurate, Taking the Luke-warm, wouldn’t exactly fly off the shelves.”

Michael Norell (Goldwyn) sees mob boss Tommy Canard (Arkin) whacking a debtor, but won’t admit it to the cops. However, when they look at the credit-card transactions, the truth comes out and Detective Hunter (Whitfield) is sent to retrieve the witness; Canard, thanks to a mole, also finds out and send his top hitman to ensure Norell never reaches the courthouse. A heatwave has simultaneously hit New York, leading to blackouts, gridlock and a breakdown in communications, so it’s down to Detective Hunter, back on her old stomping ground, to negotiate her way through the traffic jams and dodge the killers out to get Norell.

The IMDB states this 1993 film is a TV movie. Some language and one brief nude scene seem to argue against that, but with some minor trims, it could certainly play on television, and there are some aspects, such as the Patrick Williams original score, which appear straight out of TV-land. The story is hardly novel – Midnight Run is perhaps the best-known example of the ‘Protect the irritating witness’ thriller, and if you’re looking for a distaff version, In the Line of Duty IV has more martial-arts, courtesy of Cynthia Khan and Donnie Yen, than you could possible want. This isn’t up to the level of either of these, and barely scrapes by as an acceptable way to waste ninety minutes on a wet weekend.

The film does occasionally get away from the pedestrian, but the potential inherent in the scenario, as the city swelters and boils in the heat, turning into an urban jungle, is largely wasted. There are some moments which work quite nicely, such as Hunter and Norell picking their way through a booby-trapped drug den, but it’s largely predictable stuff, with the heroine and her charge initially bickering like cats and dogs, then – over the course of a mere few hours – falling for each other. For most of this, I couldn’t help thinking, Whitfield is no Pam Grier – though in her defense, few people are, and she does well enough, I suppose. If there’s nothing else on TV, it’ll do.

Dir: Tom Mankiewicz
Star: Tony Goldwyn, Lynn Whitfield, Alex Carter, Alan Arkin

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