Sharky's Machine

Director: Burt Reynolds

USA - 1981

  Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! 

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For the benefit of those with a short attention span...
And here I was thinking that this was going to be a depiction of Reynolds’ stance on the labor movement.

The Guilty Party

Burt Reynolds plays S"I'm Burt, and I'm with the police."harky. A Vice cop. A good cop. A tough cop. A cop on the edge. Come to think about it, a vast majority of movie cops are on the aforementioned edge. What's the deal? For once I would like to see a cop who follows the rules, is happy with his job, and listens attentively to his superiors. Whimsical thinking, I'm sure. Anyway, regaining focus, Burt plays a cop on the edge. He doesn't play by the rules, doesn't like his job, and continuously ticks off his boss. He has a reputation for being a real tough cookie; that is, until his new assignment has Sharky staking out a high-priced hooker by the name of Dominoe. Burt, unexpectedly, falls in love. And when the bad guys attempt to assassinate Sharky’s harlot, the situation, in turn, becomes a little more personal.

Vittorio Gassman plays Victor. The bad guy. Crime boss; pimp; child solicitor on the black market; corrupter of a good portion of the police force. YoThe angry police chief. Now doesn't he looked ticked?u know, all that evil kinda stuff. Essentially, an all-around ne’er-do-well. He also, apparently, has little-to-no motivation for his nefarious deeds. Oh well, exposition is overrated anyway. And he’s also kind of greasy looking, too.

Rachel Ward plays Dominoe. A high-priced hooker (with a heart of gold, naturally). Falls into an inevitable tryst with Sharky. Has enough insider information to put the seemingly invincible Victor behind bars for life. Becomes the target of Victor’s hitmen, and the object of Sharky’s affection.

Henry Silva plays Billy Score. Victor's crony. A professional hitman; almost unstoppable with a gun. His Achilles’ Heel being a notorious drug habit. And he whines a bit, too. Ordered to kill Dominoe, but fails in a "surprising" plot twist.

Bernie Casey plays Arch. Another Vice cop who is both good and tough. He may also be slightly onNothing quite says "class" like a rotating bed the edge, but not quite as on the edge as Burt. He's also in touch with his spiritual side - practicing both vegetarianism and Zen. Acts as a comic foil to Papa. Casey puts in a good performance, and doesn’t deserve to be in this film.

Brian Keith plays Papa. Yet another good, tough Vice cop; and approximately third in line when it comes to being on the aforementioned edge. He likes junk food, profanity, and things of a more raucous nature. Plays Goofus to Arch's Gallant. Killed at the end by Billy Score, thus making Sharky's vendetta even more personal.

Earl Holliman plays Hotchkins. A slimy politician running for Governor. He is also in love (or perhaps just infatuated) with Dominoe, and wants to take her away from the pain of having to sell her body. He is also one of Victor's cronies. Hotchkins has little to do with the film, but is featured prominently throughout.

Charles Durning plays Friscoe. The requisite angry police chief. Has two "It's true! Yellow and blue DO, in fact, make green!"years until he retires, but surprisingly, doesn't die. Easily ticked-off by Sharky (and everyone else, for that matter), and is in dire need of an interpreter. I'm serious, when Durning got his engine revving, I was nearly begging for some subtitles. His constant screaming was almost completely incoherent.

Diana Szlosberg plays the Girl with a Kitten. She’ll be the one with in possession of a feline. Be sure to look out for her.

My "thoughts" on the film. Thinking! Ha!

I don’t know about you, but whenever I sit down to a Burt Reynolds’ film, I am filled with almost giddy anticipation with the thought of making as many lame Burt Reynolds’ jokes as humanly possible - The Cannonball Run (and all its sequels), City Heat, Rent-A-Cop, Stick – all prime candidates for cheap joke fodder. With Burt Reynolds as the target of your ridicule, and just a little (very little) imagination, the possibilities are just about infinite. But sadly, once again, my diabolical plan was foiled. Sharky’s Machine turned out to be somewhat decent. Not great, by any stretch "Oy! My Armani!"of the imagination, but decent enough in its own right.

The film starts off as a fairly taut, gritty police drama. Typical stuff – the cop that doesn’t go by the rules, the perpetually irate police chief – but it’s done fairly well. Burt is believable as the titular Sharky - not quite the tough-as-nails Dirty Harry, but he’s no Deputy Cletus, either.

Things start off with a literal bang – a drug deal gone wrong, a bad guy with an incredibly big gun, a busful of hostages (one of them being pregnant, naturally) – all the makings of a good (albeit brainless) action movie. But after a promising beginning, the film seems to lose course; the plot becomes a little too intricate for its own good (in other words, convoluted), the action scenes become few and far between, and Burt loses his edgy cop schtick and becomes a wuss.

Hey now, I’m all for mushy love angles intended to give the tough guy cop a little depth, but not with the strain of budding romance that’s featured in this film. As mentioned before, Burt stakes out a hooker. Over a course of several days, Burt becomes infatuated with said hooker. Ok, so far, I’m still buying it. Finall"Hello. I'm Governor-Elect Hotchkins. I have no real purpose here, but I hope you enjoy the film anyways."y, Burt meets the hooker, takes her back to his pad to hide out from the bad guys, and the next day (literally) they are in love. Did I miss something? Was there some elusive spark that transpired while I blinked? Perhaps this progression can be attributed to Dominoe’s discovery of a collage of surveillance photos, taken during Burt’s stakeout, hanging on Sharky’s bedroom wall. (Am I the only one who finds that a bit creepy?) Maybe it was due to the altercation between Burt and Dominoe where she ends up biting him, and he, in turn, gives her a good wallop upside the head. Nothing like a little domestic abuse to set the mood, right? Or perhaps Dominoe realized she had met Mr. Right after seeing the cheesy flower Burt whittled onto the wall in her honor. I mean, really now. It’s just damn silly.

I understand the fact that they have only have two hours to provide the romantic exposition – but there has toThe Bad Guys: Victor and Billy Score be more effective ways of handling it than this. I don’t know, how about one of those popular musical interludes? It can show Burt and Dominoe frolicking around the park together - picking flowers, playing stickball with the neighborhood kids, sharing an ice cream cone – you know, crap like that. They can even score the piece with a romantic ditty like, say, "The Best That You Can Do" by Christopher Cross. Now that’s romance!

But in Burt’s defense, he does, eventually, regress and become the initial bad-ass towards the film’s finale. This is definitely a good thing, because the ridiculously lengthy stakeout scenario drags the film’s pacing almost to a dead stop.

Now, as far as the convoluted plot goes, my biggest problem was the fact that by the end of Sharky’s Machine I still didn’t understand the bad guys’ motivation. Ok, so Victor was a big-time crime boss - check. He was so big he even had some of the police on his payroll – check. Governor-Elect HotchkinsSharky and Arch share a special moment was basically his puppet – check. But what else is there? Sharky investigates Dominoe to verify a lead he obtains about a possible connection between her and Hotchkins, but what does this have to do with Victor attempting to assassinate her? Why does he suddenly want to kill his most prized streetwalker? Ok, I understand that Victor buys and sells young girls on the black market, but what does that have to with Hotchkins? And finally, they make up Billy Score to be some kind of an unstoppable killer – but at the end, he turns out to be merely a sniveling drug addict – with, again, no motivation, no character development, and little sense of purpose. Not onlySomewhere, a lonely custodian pipes, "Hey! I just washed that window!" that, but Score seems to play a prominent role in the beginning, only to disappear in the middle, then inconsequentially reappear at the end. What’s up with that?

So, essentially, on the rare occasion when the ball is rolling, Sharky’s Machine is fairly good; but when the gears start to slow down, you can almost guarantee that they’re gonna stop. That’s when the troubles start. Hard to pay attention. Eyes starting to close. Mind starting to drift. Room getting hazy. Must….hit…..fast-forward button….

In other words, good action – bad storytelling.

Burt, stick to your Cannonball Run franchise.

No, strike that.

Either that's a gun or the most obvious boom-mike ever

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These are the times of which to cherish...

- During his stakeout on Dominoe, Burt realizes that he is, in fact, deeply in love with the prostitute. In one touching scene, Burt watches on as Dominoe begins to "entertain" one of her regular johns. Just as she is about to…uh…kiss his…uh…well…you know…we cut back to Burt as he bursts into tears. That scene alone made my heart jump. Or maybe that was my lunch.

- Unexpected ninja combat!

When you think Burt, think Williams!

Burt Reynolds, King of the Tough Guy One-Liners: "Somehow I get the feeling that your rear-end is puckering up." Man, does that provoke some rather vivid mental images, or what?

 

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-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman

 

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An awkward love scene left on the cutting room floor