Set at Christmas – and featuring a gun-toting Santa no less – Silent Partner is one of those films no doubt lumped into that favourite discussion among modern film types – is it a Christmas film?

Well, the simple answer is not really, but that festive flavour certainly adds to a film that is positively dripping in 70s vibes. I should add, that is not necessarily a total recommendation as there are definitely questionable decisions in terms of content (more later) – but this ‘robbery with a difference’ opus has an awful lot going for it.

Elliott Gould plays Miles Cullen, a teller at a Toronto bank, whiling away his days hopping between his job, his collection of tropical fish – and trying to bed fellow worker Julie (Susannah York).

All that changes though when the bank is held up by street psycho Reikle (Christopher Plummer), who pops up at the bank from time to time in costume (hence the Santa suit) to swipe freshly-deposited cash.

Through a plot device, Miles gets wind that Plummer will be trying his trick the next day, triggering a scam where the bank worker stashes away a chunk of money himself, then claiming it to be part of the hoard stolen by Plummer in the robbery.

Trouble is though, when the robbery makes the local TV news, Plummer realises he’s been had – and he is not about to take that slight quietly…

Intricately plotted, Silent Partner is stuffed with scenes of real tension, from the robbery to antics involving safety deposit boxes, cleaners and a truckload of coincidences.

The performances are also great – Gould makes an affable lead, while Plummer’s eyeliner-wearing psycho certainly comes across as a genuine threat. You also get John Candy in an early role, along with a bevy of recognisable Canadian faces.

But – and this is a pretty big but in my eyes – the treatment of the female characters in the film is pretty scandalous. There are three major female roles in the film – York’s Julie, who seems intent on sleeping with all the male bank workers (and getting her kit off); Gail Dahm’s Louise, a ‘ditzy blonde’ employee who shags someone at a Christmas party before shacking up with Candy’s Simonsen (and gets her kit off); and Celine Lomez’s Elaine, Plummer’s stooge who strikes up a relationship with Miles to try and get her hands on the cash (and who gets her kit off of course).

Even worse, an early scene has Plummer beating a woman to a pulp to establish his ‘dangerousness’ – I get that as a plot device (and the attack is referenced as a further plot device midway through the film), but do we really need to see Plummer ripping the woman’s clothes off before dishing out the bloody beatdown?

All this is a real shame, as director Daryl Duke’s film (from a script by Curtis Hanson) is for the bulk of the running time a clever, tense, thrilling stand-off of a film.

Silent Partner certainly still comes recommended, but with some more care taken over the female roles could have seen this move from being a good movie to a truly great one.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle