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Robbing the Robber Is Costly Maneuver

September 16, 1993|GEOFF BOUCHER

Bland and bored bank teller Miles Cullen craves excitement and romance but settles for daydreaming and tending his exotic fish.

It seems that nothing interesting ever happens to Cullen (Elliot Gould) until the fateful day he finds a discarded holdup note in the trash. He quickly deduces that it was left behind by a Santa Claus collecting coins from the Yuletide crowds bustling past the First Bank of Toronto.

The ersatz Kris Kringle is a thug named Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer) who, Cullen realizes, is waiting for the opportune moment to rob the bank. Instead of reporting the plot, Cullen decides this is his big chance. He will become, as the title of this brisk thriller puts it, "The Silent Partner."

It seems simple enough to Cullen: Skim $50,000 from his drawer, stuff it into his Superman lunch box, and the red-suited robber takes the rap. If it works, he thinks with a dreamy smile, his newfound wealth may even win the affections of his aloof co-worker, Julie (Susannah York).

But after the holdup at Cullen's cage, the bank teller becomes a mini-celebrity, and it doesn't take Reikle long to figure out why his loot is only a fraction of the reported booty.

Smug and satisfied, Cullen believes he has all the moves figured out, but he doesn't know that the homicidal Reikle, played with nefarious panache by Plummer, doesn't play games--or take prisoners.

The movie reaches a chilling pitch when the unassuming Cullen (made wonderfully gawky by Gould, the most unassuming of leading men) realizes that he is not dealing with just a crook but with a brutal killer.

Standing in his living room, made a shambles by Reikle's rampaging search for the money, Cullen hears a voice and turns to see two steely, brutal eyes glaring through the mail slot. "One night I'll be in there waiting for you," the disembodied voice tells the quaking bank teller, and the eyes glint with sinister menace.

The battle of wits and wills that follows makes this movie a nail-biter, ripe with twists and suspense.

"The Silent Partner" (1978) directed by Daryl Duke. 103 minutes. Rated R.

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