Sharky’s Machine (1981) – Review

3 Stars

Reynolds’ mega watt charisma is on full display all throughout Sharky’s Machine, an entertaining and hard-edged police thriller. The one-time box-office champion of the world turns in a relaxed, yet rugged performance in the lead and does an equally fine job behind the camera in addition. Set in Atlanta Georgia during a political convention, recently demoted Sargent Sharky is now working the vice squad. A top priority from the brass above is to clear the streets of hookers and ticket cab drivers not wearing their uniform hats. Its mindless work for the former beat cop, who is use to shoot-outs and car chases. However things change when he arrests a street-walker who turns on her pimp. Leading to the exposure of a criminal ring that implicates a mayoral candidate, the police force and important mob figures.

While working the case, Sharky falls for a high-priced call girl named Domino (Rachel Ward) who the officer is assigned to spy on for evidence. A vicious hitman has been assigned to murder the girl because of her inside knowledge of political conspiracies. Eventually Sharky brings down the prostitution ring and exposes corruption within the department.

The refreshing realization here is that Sharky’s Machine isn’t a Dirty Harry clone, this is a gum-shoe mystery with shades of Rear Window, Chinatown and other noir-classics. Reynolds as a director lets his supporting characters breath, instead of rushing from scene to scene the film pauses for quirky monologues and arias, case in point is a speech by Bernie Casey in which he recalls nearly dying then minimizing his antenna so that bullets would miss him in battle. Small touches like this and a moody jazz score perfectly capture the tone of this atmospheric and often off beat thriller. Perhaps it goes on for too long, but the effect is a richer experience than the less glamorous and far more violent Dirty Harry pictures.

Director: Burt Reynolds
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Rachel Ward, Henry Silva

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