Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Film #55: Sharky's Machine

All Atlantans of a certain age have a soft spot for this Burt Reynolds movie that, like it or not, remains one of the best ones ever shot in the ATL. I think it's a lotta fun and probably Reynolds' finest directorial outing. It's adapted from Georgia author William Diehl's best seller
about Tom Sharky, an Atlanta homicide detective obsessively tracking a local mobster (a slimy Vittorio Gassman). He keeps on with this even after being busted down to the city's seedy vice department, where Sharky starts recruiting members of his machine (including old guy Brian Keith, goofy technician Richard Libertini, vice chief Charles Durning, mousy forensics expert John Fiedler, and cool black dude Bernie Casey). Beautiful British model Rachel Ward made her feature film debut playing Gassman's premier $1000-a-night call girl (with whom Reynolds naturally falls in love). The scenes with the Machine provide a lot of good comic relief that matches nicely with the more violent portions of the film (highlighted by a deliciously over-the-top bad-guy turn from coke-snortin' Henry Silva).

A former Georgia native, Burt Reynolds has an affinity for Atlanta that shines right through on Sharky's Machine. The city's 1982-era locations are put to optimal use, from the opening shootout outside City Hall to
the climactic race to the top of the 72-story Peachtree Plaza Hotel (the closing scene features a stunt by Dar Robinson that still holds the record for longest free-fall stunt in motion picture history). The opening image of the hotel, set to Randy Crawford's "Street Life," gives me chills especially when the helicopter shot centers in on a tough Reynolds navigating the city's train tracks. Sharky's Machine looks good, having been
photographed by William A. Fraker (1941, WarGames), and it sounds good, too, scored with an energetic collection of jazz standards and originals by Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, and The Manhattan Transfer. Violent yet often quite funny, I think Sharky's Machine has had a big influence on Quentin Tarantino, for one; it's filled with the sort of cheeky banter and bravado that runs all through his films (plus he used "Street Life" as a song in Jackie Brown). I'm curious to see if anyone out there agrees that it must be a Tarantino favorite. Just look at this clip and tell me this doesn't feel like something Q.T. ate up as a kid.

1 comment:

Armpit Studios said...

It's one of my all-time favorite movies. So much so that I once recorded the entire audio track onto cassettes so I could listen to the movie on my weekly 2-hour drives between 2 towns.