The Silent Partner


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This Canadian film features a cat-and-mouse battle of wits between an immoral bank robber who thinks he is clever and the bank's amoral head teller who is cleverer still. The teller (Elliott Gould) notices a series of clues which lead him to conclude that his mall branch will be robbed by the mall's Santa Claus (Christopher Plummer, who is required by Canadian law to play the smooth villain in all Canadian films), probably on the busy day before Christmas. Instead of turning the man in or reporting his suspicions, he decides to exploit the situation to his own advantage. On the day of the robbery he systematically moves almost all of the bank's big bills from the till to his own briefcase. When the robber comes in and asks for the money, the teller hands him the small amount on the floor, then trips the alarm late enough to allow the crook enough time to escape. (He can't be caught or the monetary discrepancy would be discovered.) The crook makes off with a few thousand dollars Canadian (about thirty eight cents American, or eleven quadrillion lire, for our Italian readers), while the teller walks off with the serious money, and eventually moves it to a safe deposit box in his own bank, intending to ignore it and return to his Spartan lifestyle until the robbery is long forgotten. He hides the safe deposit key in a completely secure place (inside a half-full jar of jam in his fridge), and begins his patient wait.

Unfortunately for him, the press loves the story and covers it so intensely that the publicity eventually reaches the robber, who quickly puts two and two together and realizes he's been had. Since he's a violent sadist who owns the only gun in Canada in 1978, this spells major trouble for the teller. The rest of the film is a chess match between the two men, wherein each of the two holds the upper hand from time to time. The wimpy schnook of a teller gradually becomes more and more confident of his moves, and this also affects  every other aspect of his life. As he gains confidence, he also starts to impress the ladies.

Critics of the film argue that the character development in the film is undercooked and the plot is overcooked. There is certainly some truth to that. For example, the teller has a dying father who is a stroke victim. This circumstance is not used to teach us anything about the teller's personality or background, but simply as a plot device. When one of the robber's underlings, a beautiful woman, tries to seduce our hero, she introduces herself as the night nurse at the father's hospital, and reveals how the old man always said he was proud of his son. Since we have already seen that the father can neither speak nor recognize his son, we know immediately that the woman is lying. More important, we also know that the teller knows, and does not let on that he knows, and is thus scheming to use the woman in his own counter-move. Frankly, I think this entire scenario was extremely clever, economical screenwriting, and not a flaw at all. Yes, this is a plot-heavy film, but the characterization is as deep as it needs to be in a plot-driven movie. And the screenwriter did not ignore character. The teller could have just simply manipulated the woman by providing her with disinformation, but he immediately realized that she would do anything necessary to gain his confidence, so he didn't plant the seeds of his counter-plan until he ... er ... thoroughly plowed all of her furrows, if you catch my drift. In essence, he realized he was getting the "get laid free" card, and he took advantage of it. That told us a lot about how his personality was changing from the unassertive man we saw earlier, who couldn't summon up the courage to steer his obviously willing would-be girlfriend into the bedroom.

There were a couple of times when I though the plot was getting unnecessarily convoluted. For example, the bank teller's perfect hiding place for the safe deposit key got spoiled when his maid cleaned out his refrigerator and threw out the jam. Unlike the other scenario I described above, this one accomplished nothing except to complicate the plot, and it wasn't even remotely believable. (1) How many bank tellers have maids? (2) The maid was a deus ex machina, never introduced before she was needed to throw out the jam, never to appear again, and unrelated to the rest of the plot. (2) How many maids would throw out a jar of jam without asking their employer? (3) If it had been weeks-old Chinese take-out, that would have been another matter, but this was just a regular ol' half-finished jar of jam, and there was no reason to dispose of it.

At any rate, if you overlook a couple of too-obvious contrivances and some poor performances in the minor roles, you should really enjoy this film, which provides a variety of guilty pleasures:

* You'll keep guessing until the end of the clever plot written by Curtis Hanson, who would later win an Oscar for his screenplay for L.A. Confidential.

* It has a slick, psychotic villain played in the Plummer style, employing surprisingly graphic violence by 1978 standards. (Celine Lomez gets beheaded by the sharp glass on the side of a broken aquarium, and Plummer leaves her head in there to sleep with the fishes.)

* It has a rare screen appearance from John Candy in the days before he left Second City for Hollywood, although for some reason the director assigned Candy to a non-comedic role that could have been played by anyone, despite the fact that SCTV had been on the air for two years before this was lensed.

* There is nudity from five different women, including full frontal and rear exposure from the beautiful Celine Lomez.

* Best of all, there's no nudity from John Candy.

Although the film is all but forgotten, it gets a thumb up from me. It's an excellent example of how a good script can create an inexpensive film ($2.5m Canadian, about the cost of a pack of cigarettes in Canada) that is fun to watch and doesn't look or feel cheap.



* widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1. Good transfer.

* no features







There are no major reviews online, but several internet reviewers are linked from IMDb.


7.2 IMDB, top 1000 voters (of 10)


Not available.


  • Celine Lomez - full frontal and rear nudity
  • Gail Dahms - one breast
  • Susannah York - one breast
  • Nancy Simmonds - breasts
  • bare breasts from an unknown


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


 Absolutely recommended if your kind of film.