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Sharky's Machine (1981)

Tom Sharky is demoted to vice after a bust goes terribly wrong. He and his team stumble across a mob murder tied to prostitution and government.



(novel), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Billy Score
Joe Tipps
Hari Rhodes ...
Highball Mary
James O'Connell ...


Tom Sharky is a narcotics cop in Atlanta who's demoted to vice after a botched bust. In the depths of this lowly division, while investigating a high-dollar prostitution ring, Sharky stumbles across a mob murder with government ties, and responds by assembling his downtrodden fellow investigators (Sharky's "machine") to find the leaders and bring them to justice before they kill off all his partners and witnesses, including Sharky himself. Written by Unknown

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Some cops are good at opening cases. Sharky knows how to finish one. [Video] See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Brigada Anti-Crime  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Robert Duncan McNeill's film debut. See more »


After Arch climbs over Papa's dead body on the stairwell, Papa moves his head. See more »


Dominoe: This is all you know, isn't it? Pushing, hitting, and punching! Does it make you feel good or something?
Sharky: Sometimes, yes!
See more »


References Laura (1944) See more »


8 To 5 I Lose
Performed by Joe Williams
by Cliff Crofford (as C. Crofford), John Durrill (as J. Durrill), Bobby Troup (as B. Troup) & Snuff Garrett (as S. Garrett)
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User Reviews

He Pulls The Chain On Him
9 December 2015 | by (Sword Of The Protector) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

I love this movie but I will be honest with you; it is not without flaws. Let's get them out of the way. Despite the great cast, Burt is a great actor but not so fantastic a director. The by play with the vice crew yelling at Friscoe, Durning's worst performance, is painful. As is the great character actor Libertini also, inexplicably, shouting all the time. Whenever Friscoe is on the screen he is bellowing until you are sure he is going to fall over with a coronary. Casey and Keith are great in their little roles. Silva, the executioner, steals the movie as Death in the flesh. The two of them Victor and Silva are worth owning this movie for. The villains are the make or break point of these kind of films. You will just loathe Gassman who has one last night of fun with Dominoe before having her killed the next day. Ward gives a very good performance as a very worldly cynical prostitute. For me, Holliman's delineation of a crooked politician, in Gassman the pimp's pocket, is what gives this existential depth. Renolyds was not known for having very complex writing in his movies (The Hal Needham films) yet here he draws very deeply well written characters. Gassman's evil is quite understated; he simply uses these call girls to get his tentacles into powerful men and put the arm on them. Sharkey starts the movie in disgrace getting some civilians killed in a gun-battle with a drug dealer on a bus.

It contains one of the most intense torture scenes outside of Deliverance when Sharkey humiliates Gassman in public and says my header which is worth the purchase alone,"It feels like you're a lump of S in my toilet and I got my hand on the chain. I'm going to pull the plunger on you pal." Silva does what he perfected in The Manchurian Candidate: a murderous, icy psycho. Here he wires himself up on PCP before going out, shotgun in hand, to kill on his rich pimp brothers' orders. Gassman has nothing but contempt for him which he makes the fatal mistake of showing. This movie is not your typical Burt movie. Not brainless and full of mindless stunts like Stoker Ace or Hooper; also, not light or vapid like Smokey. This is the one of two Burt movies I own; Gator just was too corny for me. The above flaw with Durning shrieking incessantly is a very small part of this old classic. What is sad is that young people formed this image of him based upon his many bad films and will avoid this one. As he watches Dominoe, they share the time together and the loneliness of being a cop on stakeout is well delineated. The performances of Burt and Ward will surprise you along with the intensity of the movie.

The violence, once decried in 1981, is now quite mild but still intense for a typical Renolyds' movie. The film develops and moves well; the double agent in the police force is well written and you won't guess who until the very end. Gassman is just as good here in English as he is in his many Italian classics. This is what sets the movie on my shelf; yes, Burt's direction is shaky at times, Durning is just poorly written but Gassman, Silva, Keith and Casey are why you want to own this. Sharkey is written as a very closed off, violent, unpredictable cop; it is not your everyday Burt. It is also, thankfully, devoid of his usual admiring of himself as in those awful Hal Needham flicks. Renoylds is able to make us care about his character as a lonely, disgraced homicide cop sent down to vice as a demotion. There are a few quiet surveillance moments that give it unusual depth; they share their loneliness across the wire as he watches and listens to her life.

Believe me, I am not a big Burt guy. Most of his movies I cannot stand. It has flaws but it also is a very intense cop movie. His surrounding of himself with, honestly, much better actors was a very wise move on his part. The photography, music and pacing are excellent. One of his least known and best movies. This and the unknown Breaking In are the only two of his movies I own.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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