I'm betting you're thinking that if you live to be 100, you'll never enjoy the amazing sight of Burt Reynolds beating the shit out of a couple of ninjas. Well, you'd actually be right, but just barely.
LD and Chicken came by this week for a showing of SHARKY'S MACHINE. The dumb bastards at Warner Brothers have only released it in the U.S. on a 1998 full-frame DVD, so I had to find a dub of the Region 4 DVD, which is close to the proper aspect ratio. Close enough anyway.
SHARKY'S MACHINE is the best film directed by Burt Reynolds, who also stars in it as Sharky, a tough narcotics cop who gets screwed by the department after a bust goes bad and he takes the blame. He's transferred to the shithole of Vice, which is headquartered in the precinct basement and plays host to the worst pimps, hookers, dopers, and lowlifes Atlanta has to offer. The cops assigned to Vice were once among the cream of the crop, but the frustration and humiliation of what they do has turned them into jelly.
So it is that they leap at the chance to do real police work. A case involving a major pimp and a politician (Earl Holliman) running for governor spurs Sharky to put an illegal 24-hour surveillance on the apartment of a gorgeous $1000-a-night call girl named Dominoe (Rachel Ward). While spying on her, Sharky falls in love with her, and he takes the case personally when a crazed, cokeheaded assassin (Henry Silva) blasts her face off with a shotgun.
Reynolds the actor certainly loved the opportunity to put together a very sharp cast for his crime drama, including Charles Durning as his Vice boss, Brian Keith, Bernie Casey and Richard Libertini as his "machine", John Fiedler, Vittorio Gassman, Hari Rhodes, Joseph "Stefano" Mascolo and Darryl Hickman as a jerk cop named Smiley. Reynolds the stuntman certainly dug the brutal action scenes, including an opening shootout on a city bus and a suspenseful climax with Sharky and Silva stalking each other on the top floors of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. And Reynolds the director got to spot the film with a lot of cool jazz songs by artists like Julie London and Joe Williams.
SHARKY's pace flags somewhat in the middle, as Reynolds spends more time than he needed on conversations (albeit well-acted ones) between cops that don't serve the plot and on Sharky's various introspections. What we'd rather see is Reynolds fighting ninjas.
Hallelujah! Can you believe it? While poking around a friend's basement, Sharky is attacked by two Asian badasses with "numbchucks", who start whaling away at Sharky, "kicking his ass," to paraphrase Casey. The fight is well-staged by Reynolds, who has to come out second best (let's face it, not even Burt can beat up a pair of awesome ninjas), but he holds his own and has nothing to be ashamed of. And Sharky gets a second crack at them a little while later, and two guesses as to who survives.