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Thursday, August 6, 2015

SILENT PARTNER -- Movie Review by Porfle

(This review was originally posted at in 2006.)

"Gordon, don't get your panties in a wad over this investigation. If they wanted James Bond, they woulda sent him."

That's what Gregg Henry's character, Ambassador Lafontane, tells CIA analyst Gordon Patrick (Nick Moran) over lunch in downtown Moscow during an early scene in SILENT PARTNER (2005). Gordon, who is a desk jockey and likes it that way, has been sent to perform a cursory investigation of the suicide of Russia's Minister of Finance, Mikhail Garin, which occurred just as a massive business deal was in the works between high-level Russian and American interests.

But things don't look so cut-and-dried to Gordon and he begins to undertake a real investigation that soon leads him to believe that the suicide was in fact murder, especially after he finds that Garin left a mysterious briefcase in the care of a prostitute named Dina (Tara Reid), who is now being hunted by nefarious Russian mercenaries. Gordon is ordered by his superiors to drop everything and return to the States immediately, since his earnest desire to actually do the job he was sent to do is rubbing the wrong people the wrong way.

But he refuses, and finds himself up to his neck in something so far-reachingly wrong that he has to wade through shootouts, car chases, explosions, and other rather upsetting events in order to get to the truth without getting himself perished first.

That's about all you need to know about the story--the finer details aren't all that important, especially if complicated political thrillers tend to leave you scratching your head. This one's not all that complicated, though, and once you get into it, the details don't get in the way of what I found to be an engrossing and often thrilling action movie with plenty of suspense, tension, and a crackling atmosphere of paranoia that doesn't let up.

I usually don't read IMDb before reviewing a movie, but while I was checking the cast list I happened to notice that the featured user comment calls SILENT PARTNER a "boring piece of drudgery." This tells me that the film will no doubt have a wide range of viewer responses, since I felt the complete opposite about it.

First of all, the main character is one of those nobody types you'd never expect to see in this kind of movie (as Ambassador Lafontane pointed out earlier, he's no James Bond). The first time I saw him, I thought he was a minor character who would soon disappear. He's similar to Nicolas Cage's "Stanley Goodspeed" in THE ROCK, a guy who's more comfortable around the office than in the field, which makes it so much fun to see him forced into life-or-death situations.

And this movie comes up with some real corkers, including a five-minute car chase that would've had me on the edge of my seat if I actually sat on the edge of my seat when I watched movies. It begins as Gordon is being led to his plane back to America, when he sees the prostitute, Dina, being shoved into the back of a police car by some very bad-looking men. He ducks his handlers, steals a crummy-looking little compact piece-of-crap car, and comes whipping around the corner to the rescue. He and Dina end up being chased by two police cars down a freeway, through the countryside, and finally down the wrong way against city traffic in a frenetic sequence that ranks as one of the best car chases I've seen in quite a while.

The only problem is that director James D. Deck, who also wrote the screenplay, isn't content to merely set up great shots, but must embellish them with a bunch of shaky camerawork and pointless zooming in and out in an attempt to make his direction seem more "stylish." Which he doesn't need to do at all, since the scenes that are done normally look fine as they are--the film sometimes even has a FRENCH CONNECTION look to it. All that extra zippity-doo-dah camerawork merely distracts the viewer and is my main gripe against the film as a whole.

There's another really cool sequence that I loved--earlier on, Gordon is entering his hotel room, which is filled with hidden surveillance cameras and microphones, when Dina forces her way in. He doesn't know her yet, so he's understandably peeved, but she must talk to him privately. She knows the room is bugged, so she turns the stereo up full blast, whips off her coat to reveal that she's wearing nothing but a bra and panties, shoves Gordon onto the bed, and leaps on. It takes a few moments to dawn on the surveillance guys that she's not whispering sweet nothings in his ear. James D. Deck directs the sequence almost like a music video, and in this case it works.

The third really good scene is the one in which Gordon is meeting a couple of CIA agents at a restaurant so that he can be "brought in", only to find himself in the middle of a blazing shootout with all sorts of bad guys with machine guns running around trying to kill him and each other. Deck's style works pretty well here, and he conveys a real sense of paranoia as Gordon makes his way to the restaurant, not knowing whether or not he's being set up or who to trust.

Nick Moran (LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, THE LAST DROP) makes a believable "everyman"-type hero. He almost reminds me of what Conan O'Brien's shorter, more serious brother might look like. Tara Reid is also good as Dina, the prostitute who must help him get to the truth before she is erased by the sinister bad guys. And in a smaller role, the ever-popular Gregg Henry (PAYBACK, BODY DOUBLE) is a welcome presence as Ambassador Lafontane, who may or may not be an important behind-the-scenes ally.

All in all, I enjoyed SILENT PARTNER very much and found it to be a consistently thrilling action flick that I would highly recommend to me if I hadn't seen it yet. I would not, however, recommend it to people who would find it to be a "boring piece of drudgery." But you can't know if you're one of those people or not until you watch it, so I would suggest that you watch it and find out for yourself. You just might like it as much as I did.


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