Richard Montgomery (Aidan Quinn) has been put away for serious crimes, but he's not planning to hang around in prison for much longer and to that end has devised a way of getting out of his cell and on the path to freedom. First he must pretend to fight with his cellmate, and they cause such a commotion that the other prisoners get rowdy themselves, but after the guards arrive to break it up, Montgomery has already been stabbed - not seriously, but enough to get him into the infirmary. Just as he had hoped, and he beats up the doctors and escapes from the window onto his accomplice's waiting truck...
From that beginning, it would appear that what we had in store was a high octane thriller rather than the kooky romantic comedy that all concerned were apparently more keen to offer us. This was Stakeout, one of those eighties hits that didn't linger long in the memory, and now exists to turn up on television to be watched when there's nothing else to do and nothing on the other channels that immediately appeals. It was very competently made, but somehow never raised itself to its full potential as a kind of wacky version of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, preferring to stick with the undercooked suspense and light humour.
A bit too light, as there was a distinct lack of belly laughs where there were merely slight chuckles instead. In spite if the opening going the way it does, Quinn pretty much disappears for much of the movie, appearing occasionally to remind us that the main characters will be in grave danger should he make it to his destination. Which is? The home of his ex-girlfriend Maria (Madeleine Stowe), who he still carries a torch for even if she is glad he is out of her life. The cops, prompted by the F.B.I., send two pairs of officers round to the house across the street to hers and the stakeout of the title commences, with our heroes being the duo taking the night shift, Chris Lecce (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill Reimers (Emilio Estevez).
In truth, Estevez might as well have been played by a shop window dummy for all he matters to the plot, simply present to voice concerns that Chris is getting too close to this case and do a bit of running about at the beginning and the end. Dreyfuss on the other hand, is a curious choice for a tough guy police detective until you realise he's not playing the type of role Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone would have nabbed, and is actually there as the engagingly irresponsible romantic lead which he had often been in his previous films. He fits that persona very well, even if he does look about twenty years too old for Maria, but that does not stop Chris heading over to her house and getting to know her better.
At first, this means posing as a telephone engineer and fixing bugs to her handsets, all the better to find out if Montgomery is trying to get in touch, but then he meets her in the supermarket, is giving her a lift home, is eating the meal she has cooked for him, and so on, all the while growing closer in spite of Chris's subterfuge. Also growing closer is the psycho boyfriend, but he might as well have been forgotten about until the last twenty minutes, at the stage where a grand finale was much needed to shake the movie out of its self-satisfaction. It's not that this makes for a particluarly offensive watch, it's just so undernourished in the storyline department that the basic idea behind the plot needed far more substance than what we got. You're left with a few funny lines, some action scenes that don't get the pulse racing, and a pleasant but far from affecting love affair in the middle. Music by Arthur B. Rubinstein.