"He actually has the balls to hide out in my house!"
The 1980 adaptation
of the Brian Garfield novel, co-written by the original author. This Cold War-era
espionage comedy stars Walter Matthau as Miles Kendig, a CIA field agent who is Kicked Upstairs
after refusing to terminate
his Soviet counterpart, an affable operator
named Yaskov (Herbert Lom). Ned Beatty
plays Myerson, the immature bureaucrat who does the kicking — and screaming
. Rather than ride a desk for the next few years, Kendig decides to write and publish his memoirs, including thirty years' worth of state secrets. Aided by his lover Isobel (Glenda Jackson) and hunted by his protege Joe Cutter (Sam Waterston), Kendig skips around the globe as the CIA and KGB race to apprehend him.
Tropes used include:
- Actor Allusion: The seaplane pilot says that Kendig reminds her of her father. She's played by Matthau's stepdaughter.
- Adaptation Distillation: The novel was a drama written as a counterpoint to the flashy James Bond stereotypes of espionage. This film is a comedy, although still a counterpoint to flashy James Bond stereotypes.
- Angry Guard Dog: Isobel's dog, which she says is provoked by the smell of stupidity.
- Bang Bang BANG: The FBI agents think that a string of firecrackers sounds like a machine gun. They return fire.
- Brandishment Bluff: Kendig sneaks up on Ross and pokes his finger into his back to take him hostage, taking Ross's actual gun to keep it up.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Myerson drops them, at least by 1980 standards.
- Deadly Euphemism: "What did you want me to do, terminate him?"
- Deceptive Disciple: Joe Cutter, quite against his will.
- Faking the Dead: Kendig crashes a small plane by remote control when he's had enough of being chased around by Myerson.
- Friendly Enemy: Kendig and Yaskov. Kendig very amiably convinces Yaskov to give up a roll of film at the start of the movie and they later share some vodka.
- Interservice Rivalry: The FBI man at Myerson's house makes a point to remind Myerson and his CIA people that the FBI is running the show. Later, Myerson says that FBI must stand for "fucking ball-busting imbiciles."
- Large Ham: Kendig singing opera while crossing European borders.
- MacGyvering: A minor instance when Kendig is held up by some good-natured British coppers. He puts together a small device that blows a fuse in the station when he plugs it in.
- Men in Black: Kendig references it, referring to the CIA agents who will question the pilot as "guys with little plastic ID cards."
- The Napoleon: Kendig references this by continually calling attention to Myerson's being shorter than him.
- The Nondescript: A large part of why Kendig is such a good agent.
- Not Quite Dead: Kendig fakes his death in a (remote controlled) airplane crash.
- Oil Slick: Of course the barrel of oil in his truck is for the driveway he's building at the house he is renting...
- Phone-Trace Race: Subverted. Kendig teases the tracing technicians until they discover that he is living in their boss's summer house.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Most of the background music was composed by Mozart, though operas by Rossini and Puccini are represented briefly.
- Refuge in Audacity: The whole bit where Kendig rents Myerson's summer house to do some writing in it, and then tricks the FBI agents into shooting it to pieces.
- Running Gag: Kendig and Isobel joke about Follett's sexuality, as he monitors and attempts to trace their calls.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Myerson is very foul-mouthed. (This results in a lot of Bowdlerizing of his dialogue when the movie is shown on television.)
- Small Name, Big Ego: Myerson, who places far more value on "dirty tricks" like assassination than careful footwork and long-term planning.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Kendig's affected Southern accent while he's working out of Myerson's summer house. One man he deals with tells him he can stop bothering.