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OPAQUE GLIMPSE INTO THE NEON NOIR OF SHARKY'S MACHINE

Shattering Poster for SHARKY'S MACHINE Year: 1981
Burt Reynold's later CITY HEAT co-star and then-current action flick competitor didn't go nuts for SHARKY'S MACHINE...

Source Novel turned Novelization Style
In tough guy competitor Clint Eastwood's view it was "DIRTY HARRY in Georgia" when, in a technical sense, the pot-boiler of a resilient yet vulnerable cop, falling for a gorgeous dame who, with several men after her, winds up being mistaken for another tall beauty that gets shot and, well, the MACHINE source novel author William Diehl must have been heavily influenced by Vera Caspary's LAURA directed by Otto Preminger and starring two of our favorites, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney.

MACHINE ingenue Rachel Ward would be no stranger to Neo Noir, later replacing Jane Greer in a steamier OUT OF THE PAST titled AGAINST ALL ODDS, and in the Steve Martin archive footage Noir fest, DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID. Meanwhile, Reynolds played in several Neo's including SHAMUS, HUSTLE, FUZZ and as director, SHARKY'S was his chance to go underneath the character — starting out where Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN would almost-finish-up: a bearded undercover Reynolds as Sharky strolls to Randy Crawford's funky soul track titled Street Life, followed by an action-packed, bloody violent shoot-em-up that's part Western and does in fact resemble Eastwood's HARRY more than any other scene. But Sharky has much less control than Eastwood's icon, quickly being demoted down to Vice inside a grungy basement quarters, where the real story begins...

Neat Neon Noir Poster
From terrific arial copter shots of a glass skyscraper with a see-through elevator to a lonely montage of Sharky staking out Ward's Domino from an empty building across her million dollar suite, Burt does as fine a job directing this murky tale, full of urban daylight contrasting with neon darkness, shadows, alleyways, a lake in the middle of nowhere, and side-characters including a crooked politician (Earl Holliman), a crooked cop and Kung Fu assassins with nunchucks...

Original LP Signed by Earl Holliman
The cool and gritty aesthetic matches his on-screen persona here, better than he'd been in years, since his pre-fame days, and not to be trivial, but his hair — a sort of skin diver's cut that seems like it's just-about to recede — makes his on-screen presence more credible than the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT flicks where he'd often wear a hairpiece hybrid of Liberace and Harpo Marx...

For fans of his better Hal Needham action flicks like HOOPER, there's good news and bad, and for those weary of Burt's troupe behaving like they're involved in an end credit blooper reel or a improvisational workshop, it's mostly good since, when it counts, the acting is right to the point, sparse like the dialogue and old fashion tough. That's if you don't count motormouth wire man Richard Libertini and grouchy lecturing Vice boss Charles Durning — the latter is usually always great but he goes so over the top, the other actors have to wait until his frantic monologues end.

Burt, Richard, Bernie and Brian SHARKYScore: ****
What brings some of the obvious improv down to an edgy level is scene-stealer Bernie Casey as one of Sharky's two partners, Arch, who has a penchant for Eastern philosophy and contrasts wonderfully with veteran actor Brian Keith, who, on his own, brings Durning down a few notches just by being older, cooler, calm, quiet and weathered in the same motion picture...

An underrated, forgotten gem, lost within a myriad of Burt Reynolds flicks during his popular peak, and, with only sporadic action sequences, relies mostly on grisly murders... a few bordering on an exploitation body-count horror flick... mostly from the hand of Henry Silva, the gloriously insane, drugged-up hit man brother of the head honcho "gentleman" villain Vittorio Gassman, who's put in his place too quickly for Sharky to fight for his life once the second half shifts from a cop melodrama into high octane bedlam where Burt Reynolds, in front of the screen and behind the camera, sure ain't fooling around this time.
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