A streetwise female cop escorts a reluctant witness across the mean streets of New York City in “Taking the Heat,” a romantic comedy-drama that’s short on romance, comedy and drama.
Michael Norell (Tony Goldwyn) is introduced as a self-centered corporate raider who witnesses the murder of a store owner by crime boss Tommy Canard (Alan Arkin), and then balks at helping the cops, personified by sergeant Carolyn Hunter (Lynn Whitfield). And he’s the hero.
A couple of months pass, Norell is subpoenaed to testify, and Hunter — now a detective, so she doesn’t have to wear the unflattering uniform — is assigned to escort him to the courthouse.
New York is suffering a hot spell, communications are broken down, and when the duo find themselves pursued by baddies, she’s unable to reach cop shop for aid; apparently the only phone number she knows is the central operator.
Improbabilities (to put it mildly) pile up, starting with the presence of witness Norell and crime boss Canard in a sporting goods shop after hours, continuing through local toughs stripping Hunter’s car while she’s gathering up her witness, and one bad guy who — with no more sense than a doorknob — fails to get out of the way of a truck that’s backing into him.
There’s a “Home Alone” ripoff — um, homage — involving a booby-trapped den of junkies, and a singularly pointless chase through an operating room with surgery in progress.
Goldwyn and Whitfield display no chemistry, even as their relationship ostensibly heats up; theirs is one of the least-convincing kisses in screen history.
Good supporting actors are wasted — Arkin portraying his mobster as though he’d been watching too many old Sheldon Leonard TV cameos, and mustachioed George Segal bearing an uncanny resemblance to John Astin.
Peter Boyle appears briefly as an acerbic judge. Though his is another cliched part, Boyle gets many of the pic’s best lines and knows what to do with them. But Goldwyn’s character is such a dud that when he’s about to sleep with Hunter — who’s wearing an eyepatch for no reason except to set up the line — the line scripter Dan Gordon comes up with is “Christ, it’s like going to bed with a pirate.” Duh.
Later, to be fair, he does get one good line: “Safe sex is very important to me, too — I’ve been wearing a condom all day.”
A couple of nice moments feature Rachel York as Segal’s secretary and Largo Woodruff as one of Norell’s former girlfriends, but don’t blink.
There’s some nudity (York; all the men sleep in their jammies, even when they’re having sex) and a couple of naughty words to make the film cable-worthy. Tech credits are fine.