Stakeout (1987) Directed by John Badham. With Richard Dreyfuss, Emilio Estevez, Madeleine Stowe, Aidan Quinn, Dan Lauria and Forest Whitaker.
John Badham’s action-comedy Stakeout stars Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez as a pair of adolescent Seattle detectives given the job of observing the house of woman whose ex-partner has recently escaped from prison. Released in 1987, spawning a sequel 6-years later (the imaginatively titled Another Stakeout) the film is a curious blend of light comedy banter and violent action thriller. Indeed, the opening jailbreak sequence sets a tough, gritty tone that isn’t entirely in-step with the lasting feel of the piece. We know from Badham’s CV (Saturday Night Fever) that he has a knack for juxtaposing humour and lightness with grittier elements, and he continues that motif here.
The script (written by Jim Kouf) offers a certain amount of good fun. Some of the plot developments, however, are the sort of things that only happen in films, but complaining about this in a mid-to-late 80’s action comedy is like moaning about sand on the beach. The good news is, Richard Dreyfuss brings his trademark sense of energy and knack for comic timing. Furthermore, he shares some enjoyable chemistry with Emilio Estevez as they play pranks and get up to no good on the job. They are, in essence, the embodiment of the man-child; boys bonding together while getting excited about naked women, as if they’ve never witnessed one before. Much of it is silly, some of it is mildly amusing.
It’s not long before things get complicated and the woman they are watching (Stowe) is brought into the plot. There are times when you feel the daftness is perhaps tilting too far to one side, but then the charisma of Dreyfuss redresses the balance. Madeleine Stowe isn’t given all that much to do outside of being ogled by Dreyfuss, but she is a pleasant screen presence, even if her character is slightly contradictory in some of her urges and reactions.
What is odd about Stakeout is that it flirts between being an amiable romp coupled with strong flashes of gritty action set-pieces and violence more akin to that of a Lethal Weapon adventure. These noticeable tonal jumps seem to clash with each other. In the end, the comedic elements end up being its final signature, and the warm chemistry of the leads make it worth hanging out with. 3/5