Thursday, November 13, 2008

Film Review: SHARKY'S MACHINE (1981, Burt Reynolds)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 122 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Vittorio Gassman, Brian Keith, Bernie Casey, Henry Silva, Charles Durning, Earl Holliman, Darryl Hickman, Richard Libertini.
Tag-line: "Nobody leans on Sharky's Machine."
Best one-liner(s): "I'm gonna pull the chain on you, pal. And you wanna know why? 'Cause you're fucking up my city. 'Cause you're walking all over people like you own them. And you wanna know the worst part? You're from out of state."

"Nobody better lean on Sharky's machine." Well, I got some bad news for ya, tagline. This movie is all about leaning on Sharky's machine. It's about tryin' to break that machine. His machine, of course, being the elite unit of men that Sharky builds during his exile in vice. Reynolds IS Sharky. And Reynolds IS also the auteur of this fine picture. And his machine includes everybody from the voice of Piglet to Bill and Ted's disapproving teacher. Now there's one question that's definitely gonna pop up if you watch SHARKY'S MACHINE. And it's gonna be: does director Burt Reynolds simply not know the rules of cinema, or is he openly choosing to flout them? And the answer is pretty clear if you know Sharky from Shinola.

For example- Reynolds has THREE extremely different pop songs play over the opening credits in a medley (including "Street Life"), he uses more helicopter shots than I thought humanly possible, he directs Charles Durning to be REALLY pissed off for every frame of his performance, and he condenses about a half-hour of screentime involving key plot points, forensics, and the first meeting between Sharky and the main villain into a montage sequence accompanied by some real smoove jazz. Reynolds cries! Reynolds makes key baddie Vittorio Gassman look like a shadowy doppelganger of SHARKY, 'stache and all! Reynolds slaps around both women AND corpses! Reynolds makes a movie in the vein of THE FRENCH CONNECTION in 1981! Reynolds inserts NINJAS into the narrative of a serious crime drama! So make no mistake, this movie is something of an anomaly. It's not afraid to buck convention. And it's a damn fine film. So nobody better lean on SHARKY'S MACHINE. Except maybe Loni, and maybe Dom on the weekends and when Burt's in a good mood.

-Sean Gill

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