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The jazz soundtrack makes this seem like a Clint Eastwood movie.
In fact the whole thing strikes me as Burt doing Clint. The story is good and the movie is full of one liners that I carry with me to this day. (Reynolds to bad guy: I'm gonna pull the chain on you pal, because you're f'n up my town. And you wanna know the worst part? You're from outta state!)
Highlights: The Technics 1500B reel to reel is nice set dressing for audiophiles!
Charles Durning coming unglued while listening to wiretap tapes of prostitutes having (sort of) phone sex. (You'd have to see it, trust me, it's hilarious.)
Brian Keith plays against type as a tough guy. (And does it well!)
Bernie Casie's preoccupation with Zen.
Rachel Ward. WOW! (Where'd she go?)
Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show band play their rears off as usual. (Joe William's guests on vocals. Manhattan Transfer re-recorded "Route 66".) The soundtrack lends class to the whole affair.
Need I say more? It might be Reynold's best film ever.
(Yeah, he plays himself, as usual, but it works!)
I haven't seen every single movie that Burt Reynolds has ever made, but this one (which I've just finished watching, for the third time) may very well be his best! It suffers only from some slow stretches; Burt perhaps tried to make it more "arty" than it should have been. On the other hand, he managed to avoid many of the usual cliches in the presentation of the "tough cop" role he plays (notice, for example, the scene in which he attempts to kiss Rachel Ward for the first time, or the fear he expresses just before the final showdown with the indestructible Henry Silva). In fact, Silva and those two ninja assassins are three of the most memorable villains of cop thrillers of the 80s. The film also has some offbeat touches, a surprising amount of humor, a brutal and gripping fistfight and many well-directed shots. (***)
That's how Burt Reynolds describes this film, which happens to be his
best ever. He plays Tom Sharky, a vice detective who's on the trail of
an international mobster (Vittorio Gassman) and the man he's financing
to be the next governor of Georgia (Earl Holliman). In the novel by
William Diehl, the story is more complex because the guy's running for
president. This is a very long movie that feels more like three hours
instead of two. The filming in downtown Atlanta and the Peachtree Plaza
hotel sets the mood just right for the story. Reynolds doesn't do much
laughing in this one compared to his comedy films. He's very serious
here, especially in the beginning of the movie because he gets demoted
for a dope bust that goes wrong. At times though, the movie plays more
like a voyeuristic drama than a crime film with Burt trying to get
close to the mobster's woman. Only towards the end of the film does the
violence get cranked up that leads to the bang bang climax. Just like
the great jazz score in DIRTY HARRY by Lalo Schifrin, Sharky's Machine
features an excellent urban jazz soundtrack with many guest stars
including Chet Baker, Julie London, Flora Purim & Buddy De Franco, The
Manhattan Transfer, Doc Severinson, Sarah Vaughan and Joe Williams. Al
Capps handles the score with magic. This movie has become one of the
best crime dramas ever. Check it out.
Score, 8 out of 10 Stars
In a departure from his customary late '70's/early '80's fare (and sporting a new, close-cropped toupee), Reynolds directed and starred in this tough, lurid crime drama. He plays a narcotics cop who, after slightly botching a drug bust, is demoted to the vice squad. Here, he becomes involved in the surveillance of a high-priced call girl (Ward) who is linked to a gubernatorial candidate (Holliman.) This leads to all sorts of violence and intrigue as it is discovered that the call girl is but one piece in a puzzle of corruption and criminal behavior. Reynolds does a decent job, both in the director's chair and in front of the camera. He wisely surrounds himself with an array of strong character actors and gives each of them the opportunity to register with the audience. His familiar brands of charm & sarcasm are present, but in a much more toned down way. Casey gets one of his most significant big screen roles, Keith has a few amusing moments and Durning bellows and mouths off in his enjoyable, expected way. Gassman is an appropriately sleazy crime lord and Silva is a chilling (if sometimes unintentionally funny) assassin. Ward's performance is a matter of taste. Many viewers are swept away by her looks and find her acting strong. Others see her as pretty, but unspectacular as an actress. In either case, this was a major showcase for her which did not translate to a major big screen career. Drawbacks of the film include a muddled storyline in which the bad guys' motivations aren't made particularly clear. Also, the sound effects and the blaring song score are cranked up much higher than the dialogue which makes for an uncomfortable audio situation. There is some nice aerial photography, notably containing shots of Atlanta's Peach Tree Tower. The music varies from classic tunes by top talent to loud, horrific and agonizing "music" by inferior singers whose voices are almost as bad as Reynold's torture on the boat. Though the film is engrossing and stylish, just a nip and tuck along the way would have made it even better.
Sharky's Machine finds Burt Reynolds as a narcotics cop who after a
failed buy and bust that wasn't his fault, but that got a few people
killed in it, he finds himself demoted to the vice squad in Atlanta.
The prestige is hardly as good as the narcotics beat, but it does have its fringe benefits. One night after a roundup of working girls where one of their books falls into their hands, the guys ask for surveillance on Rachel Ward's place. She's an expensive item, servicing both notorious mobster Vittorio Gassman and law and order gubernatorial candidate Earl Holliman.
Their surveillance however records a murder and the rest of the film is Sharky and his new colleagues from vice trying to solve this prestige case.
Though it's a Burt Reynolds film and those usually have some humor to them, the comedy is kept in check as the film turns as deadly serious as Dirty Harry. It was reported in fact that Clint Eastwood was offered this film.
Look for some good performances by fellow vice cops Bernie Casey and Brian Keith and by Henry Silva the coked up brother of Gassman who does the dirty work of the organization and loves his job.
It's not a bad film, a mixture of Dirty Harry and Laura. Why Laura? You'll have to see Sharky's Machine for that answer.
I like Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights) playing a cop, and he didn't do
too bad as a director here either.
He had a great supporting cast of cops and criminals: Vittorio Gassman makes a great crime boss; Henry Silva (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) makes a great psychopath; Brian Keith ("Family Affair"), Charles Durning (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), Bernie Casey, and Richard Libertini (A Grandpa for Christmas) all make great partners; and, there is, of course, Rachel Ward ("The Thorn Birds"), who got a Golden Globe nomination out of her performance.
Lots of action, superb performances, and a great story.
Superb, brutal, hard-boiled crime drama starring Burt Reynolds as a
burned-out Atlanta cop transferred to the absolute slime hole of
Atlanta's vice department after a drug deal turns sour. He's assigned
to watch a high-class prostitute (Rachel Ward) and eventually gets
caught up in some political double-dealing.
Superb action and a serious performance by Reynolds make this one a winner. It's also a complete change from the silly, lighter stuff that Reynolds had been doing for years prior to this. His performance was waning somewhat and this was a great way for him to prove he still had it.
One of the things I love about this movie is the texture of grit and sleaze. It really feels like a brutal, hellhole world that these guys live in. At the same time, the film finds ways to interject humor at the coolest moments. Henry Silva's villain is another strong point. There is a moment near the end where you see his gasping and wheezing silhouetted form, rasping out Sharky's name. It's a hard image to shake from your mind.
Sharky's Machine is directed by Burt Reynolds and written by William
Diehl and Gerald Di Pego. It stars Reynolds, Vittorio Gassman, Rachel
Ward, Henry Silva, Carol Locatell, Brian Keith, Bernie Casey, Earl
Holliman and Charles Durning. Music is by Snuff Garrett and
cinematography by William A. Fraker. Plot finds Reynolds as Atlanta
narcotics cop Tom Sharky, who finds himself busted down to vice squad
after a drug bust goes badly wrong. If he thought it was going to be
dull and routine he is very much mistaken, for soon enough Sharky finds
himself in deep with a high class prostitution ring, political
corruption and cold blooded murder.
The Sharky's Machine of the title is the group of cops that Tom Sharky gathers for the case he is working on. What starts out as standard surveillance at the home of beautiful hooker Domino (Ward), turns into a bloody trip into the workings of the seedy kingpins pulling the strings. But the kicker here is that as Sharky becomes an unwilling voyeur to Dominoe's life, he finds himself falling for her. He's fascinated by her, he feels from a distance her sadness of a life that she knows no better of. Tom Sharky is a tough dude, a manly man, a perfect role for Reynolds in fact, but he also needs to be loved, he likes roses and wood carving, he looks back to a childhood lost, it's this compelling characterisation that lifts Sharky's Machine above many other cop thrillers in a similar vein.
The film is, however, still violent and unflinching in its observations of this seedy part of Atlanta. Scum, violence and abuse is never far away, and Reynolds the director shows a deft hand at balancing the rough with the smooth motions of the narrative. He also shows admirable restraint for sex scenes, choosing mostly to suggest rather than titillate, while his acting performance is top notch as he neatly layers the strands of Sharky's emotional psyche. Around Reynolds is an array of engaging professional performances, notably Casey, Keith, a wonderfully maniacal Silva and Ward, the latter of which blends smouldering sexuality with an innocence that tugs the old heart strings.
Some of the outcome is telegraphed early, and the ending, having been a frantic and bloody last quarter, is crowned too abruptly (a shame since it contains an awesome stunt), but much like Reynolds' 1975 film Hustle, this too is badly undervalued in the neo-noir universe. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
William Diehl's original novel transposed time and period involving gold
bullion at the bottom of a river in Europe.
Burt Reynolds wisely avoided the opening pages of the novel and made it into a slick cop thriller that long-term pal Clint Eastwood described as DIRTY HARRY GOES TO ATLANTA after Reynolds took the mickey out of him for making EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE as a contrast to the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT movies that Reynolds was so successful.
Busted after a drug-bust gone wrong, Sharky (Reynolds) is reassigned to vice and his first case involves a local senator who is involved with some high-class call girls. Sharky and his colleagues set up phone taps at a high-rise and Sharky takes an interest particularly in one known as Domino (Rachel Ward). Their survelliance doesn't stop one of Domino's 'colleagues', Tiffany, being blown away by a gunman (Henry Silva in the role that he is most known for) and Sharky has to protect Domino, who has the evidence to put the senator away, whilst in the process trying to protect his own growing feelings of love for her.
Backed up by a classic jazz score (Randy Crawford's version of STREET LIFE also played in Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN), SHARKY'S MACHINE is good all-round entertainment.
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.
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