Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Forgotten Film: Sharky's Machine

To put it mildly, Burt Reynolds has had an interesting career. His charismatic presence with early recurring roles on the Gunsmoke and Riverboat TV series got many people's attention (mine included as a kid). He parlayed that into larger and larger film roles. His rendition of the Lewis Medlock character in John Boorman's adaptation of the great James Dickey novel, Deliverance, was the breakthrough impetus for that big screen vocation. Its impact skyrocketed him during the 70s, and his subsequent films successfully propelled him to the #1 box office crown. The world was his oyster. Then, the 80s collided with it like a bad meteor movie. The evidence becomes painfully clear when the films of that span are mentioned (some of which were purely for the paycheck). Among them, Stroker Ace, Paternity, Stick, Rent-A-Cop, and/or any of the Cannonball or Smokey and the Bandit sequels (among others) will tell you which direction his path then headed.

The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

16 comments:

  1. Hi Michael,

    Great review of an underrated film. I remember liking Sharky's Machine very much in the 1980s, but indeed, I haven't even thought about it in years.  Now I have to change that, thanks to your detailed retrospective.  The one thing I remember from the film specifically -- and I know this is shallow -- is the stunt fall from that Atlanta hotel/skyscraper.  That was a pretty big deal in the mid-1980s, like a trademark moment.  Anyway, I'm a big fan of Reynolds (he almost played the lead in Boorman's Zardoz, too...) and enjoyed reading your critical appreciation of this under-appreciated movie.

    best,
    John K. Muir

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  2. Wow, what an excellent look back at a forgotten film! This is the kind of film you end up stumbling across late at night on cable. Not a huge Reynolds fan but I have heard of this film - never seen it. Your compelling review certainly has piqued my curiosity, though. Great stuff, my friend.

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  3. I'm a Reynolds fan, too (and you probably can tell). Yeah, that stunt was performed by the legendary Dar Robinson and is great one captured on film. Nowadays, that would be mostly CGI-based and lacking the grit and talent of such performers. Hopefully, the studio will give this film a proper release (hopefully on Blu-ray Disc). Thanks so much, John.

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  4. This one is definitely one of the Reynolds films worth seeing. But do yourself a favor and check it out in widescreen -- it loses a lot cropped as it is in R1. If you have a region-free player, I don't mind lending you that R4 disc. Otherwise, you can rent it in iTunes (where it retains the correct aspect ratio). Thanks very much, J.D.

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  5. Excellent look back, I remember this movie.
    I sitll hold to the idea that the Smokey movies ruined the career of that fine actor we know as Burt Reynolds.

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

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  6. Yeah, I apt to agree with on that one. I wondering if he hadn't collaborated with Director Hal Needham in particular would he have suffered the slump he did. I guess we'll never know. Thank you, my friend.

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  7. Excellent write-up, your review joins a chorus of appreciation for this film that has been cropping up a lot in my readings, I am definitely planning on catching it (and hopefully writing about it) as I finish the 1980 film reviews and move onto 1981. 

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  8. Thanks much, Colonel. It's good that this film is getting the appreciation it deserves. I fondly remember seeing this one when it came out in '81. Hopefully, this interest will get Warners to give it another (and this time worthy) release. I look forward to your thoughts about on it as you move your retrospective on to that year.

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  9. The Sci-Fi FanaticJanuary 9, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    Hey mike.  Great review.  I never saw Sharky, but I guess I'll have to disagree with some here.

    I actually loved Smokey And The Bandit as a youngster.  I saw it a million times.  Great film.  Burt and Field were something special.  I think it was Reynolds own fault that he decided to go and do two more sequels.  i don't know if it was money or contract or what have you but he must have had a say in going down that road.  I think the first film stands on its own like Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way.... kind of a fun diversion with some fine performances.

    Deliverance was very good as well.  Love that film.

    But, I think, and this is merely to add to the conversation, Reynolds may have seen a career resurgence as a result of that Evening Shade [1990-1994]. I never watched but my gram loved it and critics were heaping praise on him at the time if I recall.  It was a big deal for him.

    How about Manhattan Transfer!?  I love them.  How about that song Twilight Zone?  It's as good as Boy From New York City.  Always love your musical input as well.  This was like a combo post.  : )  excellent L13!  Best. SFF

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  10. Great to hear you chime in on this, SFF. Always fine to disagree with me. I very much enjoyed Smokey and The Bandit, too (very much agree with you on the Burt and Sally pairing). So much fun and chemistry working in that film, and it is a fine allusion to Eastwood's Every Which Way But Loose (though to be honest, I'm more of a fan with its sequel Any Which Way Can). I'll even admit Hooper wasn't bad, either. But IMO, each successive collaboration with Hal Needham seemed to bring diminishing results for Reynolds. Still, you make very good points about Burt and how his career transpired.

    As well, I think you're quite right about how the TV series Evening Shade in the early 90s brought a resurgence. I didn't mention it in the post because I never watched that show (but did hear of Burt and the buzz in it). I did catch him in other television appearances, though (most recently in a favorite of mine and my wife's, Burn Notice). I really appreciate your comment and input regarding this actor (he remains very much a part of my viewing history), SFF. Thanks for them and the music nod, my friend.

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  11. My pleasure.  And I too liked Hooper.  I forgot about that one, but I did like it and I do see your point about the successive work with that director.  Cheers.

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  12. Thanks, my friend.

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  13. Good stuff. This is easily one of Burt's best movies. It has a great dark edge that I'd happily categorise as neo-noir. I'm glad you highlighted the torture scene as it was fairly startling stuff back in the day. I'd been thinking of doing a piece on this one myself but just never got around to it; maybe I will at some point though as it's kind of important in showing just what Burt was capable of as both a director and an actor. If only he hadn't gone for the easy bucks and fallen back on that "good ole boy" shtick who knows where his career might have led. It's interesting that you mention Eastwood too as his career around the early to mid-80s looked to be headed in a similar direction before he hauled it back on track.

    You're right about that R4 DVD being the only viable option for seeing this movie as it should be viewed.

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  14. Thanks so much for adding to this, Colin. I agree with you. I hope you do write up a piece on this neo noir, my friend. I'd be really interested in your thoughts.

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  15. An excellent review!   I've always had a soft spot for this film, between Reynolds' obsessive, misogynistic hero, Charles Durning's perennial, grumbling "goddammit"-slinging cop, and Henry Silva's psychotic villain who, though the tag-line strictly forbids it, does a helluva lot of leaning on Sharky's Machine.  And may I ask in what (surely mindblowing!) context you recently saw Silva?

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  16. Very kind of you to say. You bring up some great points. I love Durning's asides and expressions when he's on screen in this. And I actually saw the great Henry Silva near where I work while I headed out for lunch one day. He still looks great. Those cheekbones and profile are still pretty commanding. Thanks a lot for you comment, Sean.

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