24 June 2010 | Lejink
Not so much heat in the night...
Has to be a mistake to take the title of a sequel from the best remembered line of the originating movie - it's almost an admission that the new film can't come up with a comparable phrase. The portent is true, I fear, as Sydney Poitier reprises his Virgil Tibbs role in another would-be tough, adult, socially aware murder-thriller, but already the law of diminishing returns is applying and so "Mr Tibbs" is inferior to its predecessor in almost every way.
In fact it looks and feels like nothing more than a harder-edged TV crime show of the time, no better or worse than say "Ironside", fired as it is by a fine, occasionally quirky Quincy Jones soundtrack and replete with our man's personal problems to flesh out the character. This small-screen feel is exacerbated by the appearance of TV stalwarts Martin Landau, Ed Asner and Anthony Zerbe and it's fair to say the film never rises above the heights of a better than average TV cop-show episode.
It's biggest failing of course is the lack of dramatic tension which existed so memorably between Poitier's proud, methodical coloured detective and Rod Steiger's opinionated, redneck workaday sheriff in "...Heat of The Night". Here the film is centred entirely on Poitier and good actor as he is, his unerring instinct and judgement palls as the film progresses, whilst his relationship with friend, do-good minister but murder suspect Landau, never really takes off either. Indeed the central "whodunnit" just isn't strong enough to drive the action on, whilst Tibbs' various interludes with his family slow down the action still further, especially the ho-hum scenes with his "difficult" son.
The film is dated of course by its politics and attitudes - no crime in that - but it doggedly fails to fly and in the end stays as little in the memory as even the best remembered episode of any Kojak / Columbo episode you care to mention. Waiting in the wings, of course was a different kind of black detective who was a sex-machine to all the chicks, to take the genre further - can you dig it!