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Sharky’s Machine (1981)

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Burt Reynolds directed himself for the third time in this violent Eastwood styled cop thriller. At this time in his career Burt was just coming to the end of his prolific years when he was one of the major draws at the box office. With this role it gave him a chance to get away from the good ole boy roles and back to a character that was closer to some of the roles he had played on his rise to prominence in the early to mid 70’s in films like White Lightning and The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.

Although there is nothing new here and Burt’s direction a little shaky at times it is still enjoyable to let the script play itself out. Burt’s Sharky is demoted to vice where he uncovers a political candidate tied to a mafia don and a $1000 a night call girl played by Rachel Ward. As in 1975’s cop film Hustle, Burt once again plays a cop who falls for a prostitute. For the most part Burt plays it straight and mean but every now and then his face betrays the role and we expect to here that high pitched chuckle of his. Smartly he has surrounded himself with a solid cast that represent the “Machine” Frequent co star Charles Durning turns up as the department head with a temper to match. It’s a role Durning could play in his sleep and probably has. Brian Keith and Bernie Casey round out the muscle in the team. Long time Burt pal Earl Holliman shows up as the crooked politician tied to mobster Vittorio Gassman. It’s Henry Silva who brings terror and menace to his role of a cocaine addicted and seemingly indestructible hitman that wreaks havoc on Sharky’s Machine. Silva has made a career out of roles like this both in Hollywood and abroad.

By no means a great film, there is a fun testosterone filled scene between Reynolds and Gassman and for the classic film lover a hint of Otto Preminger’s Laura as well. Before Burt became something of a punchline and had his career spiral downwards this was a pretty good effort on his part.

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