Buddy-cop movies can be fun, violent or somewhat annoying. With Stakeout, we get all three and they are most entertaining. Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) and Emilio Estevez (Young Guns) are a mismatched pair of Seattle Police officers who specialize in observing people who may have knowledge or is harboring an escaped criminal. They antagonize each other, annoy their fellow police officers Phil and Jack (Dan Lauria of Independence Day and Forest Whitaker of Platoon) and work together well when it’s time to get serious. After a criminal Montgomery (Aiden Quinn) makes a daring escape from prison, the Seattle Police gets contacted by the FBI to set up a stakeout on Montgomery in case he decides to visit his old girlfriend Maria (Madeleine Stowe in her first major role).
Directed by John Badham (Saturday Night Fever) and written by Jim Kouf (Monster Money), Stakeout works as a thriller but more as a comedy. The chemistry between Chris Lecce (Dreyfuss) and Bill Reimers (Estevez) makes the film work in so many ways. They are a goofy pair who act like kids when they mess with each other. While staking out Maria’s house in the event that Montgomery shows up, a couple of freak occurrences happen that lead Chris and Maria to engage in a risky romance. Although we know his name to be Chris, he’s known to Maria as “Bill”, the telephone man who bugged her house without her knowing. Chris accidently says the name “Bill” when he bumps into Maria at the supermarket looking to buy some tasty snacks in between meals.
The more that “Bill” and Maria meet, the funnier the moments become. It becomes complicated when “Bill” spends the night and ends up being seen by the day crew staking out the place and catch him on camera leaving the house. The investigation into the matter causes riffs between Chris and Bill leading to “Bill” breaking up with Maria. It’s not a wise situation to get involved with the subject that you’re staking out, but we the audience can’t help but enjoy every moment until something happens that changes the course of the stakeout dramatically.
What transpires next is a series of shootouts, car chases, some good stunt work and some occasional wise cracking along the way. In some way, Stakeout reminds me of 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop due to the comedy aspect and the chemistry of the main characters. Dreyfuss and Estevez are perfect as the two cops who can’t stop fooling around and having some fun. There was a sequel released six years later that wasn’t as good as the original but still had its goofiness about it.
Seeing its release was 30 years ago, Stakeout was number one in the Box Office and walked away with $65 Million, making it the 8th highest grossing film of 1987. Even though the film takes places in Seattle, Washington it was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Jim Kouf went on to win the Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture in 1988 for best screenplay. Badham and Kouf returned for the sequel along with Dreyfuss, Estevez, Stowe, and Lauria. Also, Leonard Nimoy was attached to direct but didn’t feel comfortable with making big action and had already signed on to direct 3 Men and a Baby.
For me Stakeout focused more on the characters in the story instead of going to the old cliché of big action scenes. The chemistry of the two officers as well as Maria and Chris work very well to move the film along. It’s sweet, funny, and a film that offers a lot of fun. After a recent viewing of the film, it still stands along with 48 Hours and Beverley Hills Cop. It has the wit, the charm, and it totally re-watchable after all these years. Look for a copy if you haven’t seen it and go back to the late 80s, it’s worth a look.