Thanks to Jim Kenney for chiming in with his views of SHARKY’S MACHINE. Jim says:
SHARKY'S MACHINE is one of my all-time faves, and I too tracked down the R4 SHARKY'S MACHINE, which looks to me to be the full-frame version slightly squished w/ black bars put around it...I don't see any additional footage in any direction when I compare, do you ? (Or did you bother? I only note because your "close enough anyway" infers you weren't fully happy with the framing).
No, I wasn’t, and I think you’re right about it being squished. I don’t have the R1 to compare it with (I’ve been waiting for a Special Edition forever), but SHARKY’s aspect ratio is supposed to be 1.85 and the DVD image was off a bit. However, there didn’t appear to be anything missing off the sides, so the DVD could have been worse.
I affectionately disagree, though, which much else you say -- it's all those "pace-flagging" well-acted cop conversations that move this movie out of simple policier-territory into something more unique and memorable.
I like this stuff better than I let on, I think. A lot of these scenes are really good: one between Burt and Casey (all one stationary shot) where Bernie explains Zen; Keith bitching to Casey that he doesn’t “like ribs, don’t like chicken, don’t like hamburgers, you don’t like anything good”; a very well directed scene at the ballpark where Reynolds gets about seven characters together in the frame and has Durning walk back and forth to add some movement (and levity--”I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!”) to the expositional dialogue. I still think the pacing flags in the middle though. One more chase or five fewer minutes of Reynolds gazing at Dominoe might have fixed that.
And the initial ninja sequence for me was the worst in the movie, although the follow-up scene with the finger-cutting is another great one, and Reynolds escape sequence good too (although the Ninja's slight nod to Burt, a la "you have earned my respect" when he dies was a bit of Burt's ego acting up again).
I think Burt fighting the ninjas is one of the movie’s better setpieces. It’s a brutal fight choreographed well, and even though the notion of Chinese kung fu masters entering a relatively straightforward urban crime drama is over the top (I don’t remember if they were in the novel), Reynolds plays it fairly realistically. Sharky isn’t a superman, and even though he gets his licks in, the fight ends as it logically should. The follow-up scene is good, even though it doesn’t make any sense to me that the “asshole” should all of a sudden be Vittorio Gassman’s right-hand man. How the hell did that happen? In fact, there’s a lot about the narrative that doesn’t make much sense.
For me, it's a masterpiece of sorts, and started Reynolds 2nd decade as a superstar off on the right note -- it's still amazing how he quickly squandered both his money-making abilities and the critical goodwill he built up with this, STARTING OVER, SEMI-TOUGH and others so quickly
Well, Burt did fire the agent who got him the BOOGIE NIGHTS gig, not realizing that he was actually in a great movie for a change. In fact, it’s one of the two or three best films Reynolds ever did (and the only one to get him nominated for an Oscar).