Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sharky's Machine

A product of its times Sharky's Machine feels every bit the early 80s cop drama it is. Adapted from William Diehl's novel of the same name Burt Reynolds stars as Police Sergeant Tom Sharky. In the movie's opening scene the reckless hero cop is demoted from Homicide to Vice after a drug bust goes bad. Stuck in the lowest rungs of the department, Sharky begins investigating a string of high-priced call girls one of whom (Rachel Ward) he falls for while surveilling for weeks.

Slow-moving with much of the plot centered around surveillance of a prostitute's apartment where not much actually happens, Sharky's Machine is an R-rated film that could probably be shown today on prime-time network television today except for language and a dark final act involving the torture of our hero. It's also filled with bizarre WTF? moments (such as when a police informant is killed by ninjas). And it features some old school Bond-style romancing of damsels in distress by slapping them around a bit when necessary.

Reynolds' hard-boiled tough guy act forces the actor to suppress his charm for most of the film, doing neither himself nor the movie (which he also directed) any favors. Charles Durning, Brian Keith, Bernie Casey, and Richard Libertini co-star as members of Vice who are all pulled directly from the pages of dime-store fiction and the movie has no real interesting in developing Ward's character as anything more than a woman needing to be saved. Henry Silva steals the best role as the unstoppable killer hired to eliminate threats to his pimp brother (Vittorio Gassman) who has aspirations about ruling the city through control of the new governor (Earl Holliman).

At this point Sharky's Machine is more a curiosity or guilty pleasure than anything else. The only extra included on the Blu-ray is the film's trailer. After viewing it again recently I'm curious to see how much of the story is updated should the proposed remake starring Mark Wahlberg make it to the big screen.

[Warner Home Video, $14.97]

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