Richard Dreyfuss
Emilio Estevez
Madelaine Stowe
Aiden Quinn
Dan Lauria
Forest Whitaker
Ian Tracy
Earl Billings

John Badham

Time: 116 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Comedy/Romance
I remember paying good money to see this film in the theater and laughing my ass off. If you'd have asked me then, it probably would have been on my years best list. However, time and maturity have made me amend my original opinion just a bit. Yes, it's still a good buddy movie with some truly amusing comic moments, thanks to the talent of Mr. Dreyfus, but the action sequences featuring a very young and brooding Aiden Quinn feel dated and excessively out of place. STAKEOUT tries to be an action comedy in the BEVERLY HILLS COP/LETHAL WEAPON vein, but it's leads just aren't macho enough to carry that off. Quinn makes a decent bad guy and one feels he could have given an even more evil performance, but it's clear his level of intensity is about all Dreyfus and Estevez are capable of dealing with. They may have be good cops, but Dirty Harry they're not. As long as the film is in the comedy mode it works and is still pretty clever and entertaining; when it tries to get serious, it just falls flat. Thankfully, most of the time, the story features Dreyfus trying to get into Stowe's pants without blowing his cover, which is very, very funny.

The film opens with Detectives Chris Lecce (Dreyfus) and Bill Reimers (Estevez) trying to make arrest someone they've been after for a long time. Things get ugly, and smelly, as their prey slips through their fingers after a prolonged battle through the local fish market. Since they were unable to apprehend their criminal, not to mention the damage to city property, they are pulled off their case and assigned to a 24-hour stakeout. Apparently, there was a recent jailbreak and they believe the prisoner might come to town to rekindle a relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Bill and Chris are extremely displeased with this assignment, that is until they get an eyeful of Maria (Stowe). Set up in a run down house across the street, they spend most of their 12-hour night shift watching Maria wander around her house and thinking of practical jokes to play on the day guys, Detectives Pismo and Coldshank. Finding himself alone again, Chris starts to fantasize about meeting Maria. Bill is adamant that he stay professional and keep his mind on his work. If he screws this up, they'll never get any real assignments again.

Boredom and lust get the better of Chris and he soon finds himself in Maria's home chatting and having coffee. She's even more amazing than Chris imagined and he soon finds any excuse possible to spend time with her. Of course, she has no idea he's a cop – he told her he was a telephone repairman so he could get into the house to bug her phones – and that his name was "Bill," which doesn't go over well with the real Bill. He's not exactly Maria's type, but his charm and intelligence quickly win her over. Things become more and more complicated as he gets involved in her life, helping her family and saving her from harm. In one of the funniest moments of the film, he finds himself trapped in her house after making love to her, needing a disguise to escape so that the day guys don't identify him. Meanwhile, her ex-con, ex-boyfriend Stick (Quinn) is making his way to her home. She has something of his he's not about to live without. The final confrontation exposes Chris, puts everyone's life in danger and causes quite a mess. In the end, everything works out as it should, despite some mild pain and suffering.

STAKEOUT is a very typical 80s movie, with cheap, brazen humor and over-the-top action sequences. The only thing that saves it from obscurity is the dialogue and chemistry between Dreyfus and his two partners, Stowe and Estevez. This is certainly one of Dreyfus's best roles and he plays both the drama and comedy quite well. Stowe proves she can be more than just a pretty face, giving one of her most well-rounded performances as well. Estevez just shows that at some point in his career he didn't totally suck. Quinn has a malicious sparkle in his eyes that we rarely get to see anymore now that he's a leading man. He should play evil more often. All of the scenes between Dreyfus and Stowe in the house with Estevez looking on, still work well and are suspenseful and amusing. The practical joke stuff between the cops is trite and juvenile, though understandable if you had nothing else to do all day. The way the film comes full circle at the end is a little too tidy, but isn't horribly unbelievable. The action sequences are intricate, well-planned and excitingly executed, they just don't belong in this movie. Granted they need to show what a psycho bastard Quinn's character is, but they're just too LETHAL WEAPONish.

The film wasn't a blockbuster at the box office, but it was successful enough to spark an unfortunate sequel. STAKEOUT is certainly one of Dreyfus's best comedies and is worth a look-see if you want to see a light-hearted action comedy with a good script and decent cast. At least the story manages to be somewhat original and suspenseful. It's a good film to watch when it's on TV. Better than most television programming, but not great enough to pay for.