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Taking the Heat Reviews

TAKING THE HEAT looks great. Each luminous frame glows with first-rate cinematography. Cast and crew comprise proven and attractive talent. The film itself? Agony, an example of what happens when all Hollywood's resources serve a lousy script and a lowest-common-denominator approach. The instantly dislikeable hero is Michael Norell (Tony Goldwyn), a Wall Street yuppie who gawks from the back room of a sportswear store as mob boss Tommy Canard (Alan Arkin) punishes the proprietor for failure to pay protection; Canard uses the victim as a human golf tee and turns his head into a divot (this is apparently meant to be taken seriously). Norell phones the police, but denies he saw the crime so he can embark on his skiing trip. Next summer, Canard is on trial for murder, but he'll walk free unless D.A. Kepler (George Segal) can produce a witness. When prosecutors dig up credit-card records proving Norell was present during the lethal chip shot, dynamic Detective Carolyn Hunter (Lynn Whitfield) is dispatched with a subpoena; she cuffs herself to the protesting preppie to drive him to the judge's chambers. But her unmarked squad car is instantly stripped by ghetto kids, while Tommy Canard has sent an army of hit men (commanding them from the courtroom via his cellular phone), and power outages throughout the metropolis leave traffic jammed and 911 numbers clogged. As the squabbling couple stay one step ahead of their pursuers on the way to court, the story transforms into a Big Apple odyssey of gay bars, drug dens, overtaxed hospitals, and grocery stores run by stereotypical South Asians, each scene change bringing a fresh supply of obnoxious Noo Yawk stereotypes ("Up yours! Up your mother's! Up your father's!" yells one extra). Not even the powerful forward momentum of Tom Mankiewicz's direction compensates for incessant pandering to ethnic prejudice and tasteless "comic relief" that can't help but recall co-producer Neal Israel's hand in creating the POLICE ACADEMY franchise. Ultimately, a bloodied Michael and Carolyn reach the halls of justice in the nick of time, and the pair close the pic with an interracial bedroom scene that would have been brave under happier circumstances. With his male-model features, Goldwyn (grandson of the legendary producer Samuel Goldwyn) has previously been cast as smooth but disreputable studs in GHOST and KUFFS. He's classic leading-man material, but he's ill served by the cloddish role he's given here. The lovely Whitfield, showcased in HBO's THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY (1991), also deserves better. TAKING THE HEAT flew no higher, premiering on cable TV in 1993 and moving afterwards to home video. (Violence, substance abuse, sexual situations, extreme profanity.)