Stakeout (1987)

Stakeout is a 1987 American crime-comedy film directed by John Badham and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Emilio Estevez, Madeleine Stowe and Aidan Quinn. The screenplay was written by Jim Kouf, who won a 1988 Edgar Award for his work. Although the story is set in Seattle, the film was shot in Vancouver. A sequel, Another Stakeout, followed in 1993. The movie later inspired the 1989 Malayalam-language Indian movie Vandanam.

Detectives Chris Lecce and Bill Reimers are assigned to the night shift on a stakeout of Latina waitress Maria McGuire. Maria’s former boyfriend, Richard “Stick” Montgomery, has escaped from a prison following a brawl with several guards, with help from his cousin, Caylor Reese, who helped him escape in a truck.

The FBI asks for cooperation from Lecce and Reimers in capturing Montgomery. They believe Montgomery may return to an old girlfriend, Maria McGuire, who lives in Seattle. Meanwhile Lecce is going through a divorce from his wife. He comes home and finds out that she moved out and took his furniture, leaving him in despair.

Montgomery telephones McGuire but the line gets cut off so the calls cannot be traced. He has a large amount of money that he secretly hid in an armchair prior to his incarceration. Lecce and Reimers spy on McGuire, hoping Montgomery will turn up at her door so they can arrest him. Lecce pretends to be a telephone lineman, in order to get close to McGuire. He also helps McGuire’s brother Ray to get a job so he can stay out of trouble.

Fate takes a turn for the worse as Lecce falls in love with Maria and the Seattle police suspect him as one of Montgomery’s allies. While Lecce is asleep in McGuire’s bed, Montgomery and Reese break into her house, with Montgomery shooting Lecce in the face. Lecce wakes up, however, to find out it was only a nightmare. Realizing he slept in, he must leave the house without being seen. At the police station, Reimers scolds him for sleeping with Maria, and reminds Lecce that he’s a good cop who made one mistake.

After killing a cashier in a gas station, Montgomery and Reese have a run-in with several officers waiting for them outside Seattle, causing a shootout and having their car to crash into the river. Montgomery manages to escape from the vehicle before it sinks, with Reese wounded and dying in the sunken car. Lecce tells his secret to Maria, but she starts to get upset, only to run into Montgomery, who tells Chris and Maria that he stashed half-million dollars in a couch that he bought for her years prior. He was hoping that he and Maria would have a great life together in Canada, but Lecce ruined it for them.

After capturing Reimers, Montgomery plans to murder both cops. The climax of the film takes place at a paper mill, where Lecce and Montgomery have a shootout, resulting in Montgomery being shot in the chest. McGuire and Lecce start a relationship.


  • Richard Dreyfuss as Det. Chris Lecce
  • Emilio Estevez as Det. Bill Reimers
  • Aidan Quinn as Richard “Stick” Montgomery
  • Madeleine Stowe as Maria McGuire
  • Forest Whitaker as Det. Jack Pismo
  • Dan Lauria as Det. Phil Coldshank
  • Earl Billings as Capt. Giles
  • Ian Tracey as Caylor Reese
  • Jackson Davies as FBI Agent Lusk

Stakeout earned mostly positive reception from critics. As of June 2014, it holds an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, praising its premise while finding that the humor and the human aspect were surrounded by violent thriller aspects that did not gel as well with the humor, although he highlighted Dreyfuss and his performance.

The film debuted at number one at the box office. It went on to gross $65.6 million domestically, ranking as the eighth-highest-grossing film of the year.

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