Sharky's Machine (1981) Poster

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7/10
Burt Goes In For Vice
bkoganbing6 December 2007
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.
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7/10
Arguably Burt's best.
gridoon21 June 2001
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. (***)
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6/10
Ah, you'll die all right!
lastliberal11 December 2007
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.
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10/10
Tight story, great period soundtrack and entertaining morality play. Character actor extravaganza!
Ricktrumpetman13 October 2004
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!)

Enjoy!
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A pretty well-oiled machine.
Poseidon-329 December 2002
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.
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10/10
One of the best (if not the best) films Reynolds ever made
tbyrne417 February 2011
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.
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8/10
Sharky: First Name, Sergeant.
Spikeopath2 March 2012
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
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