2 March 2012 | Spikeopath
Sharky: First Name, Sergeant.
Sharky's Machine is directed by Burt Reynolds and written by William Diehl and Gerald Di Pego. It stars Reynolds, Vittorio Gassman, Rachel Ward, Henry Silva, Carol Locatell, Brian Keith, Bernie Casey, Earl Holliman and Charles Durning. Music is by Snuff Garrett and cinematography by William A. Fraker. Plot finds Reynolds as Atlanta narcotics cop Tom Sharky, who finds himself busted down to vice squad after a drug bust goes badly wrong. If he thought it was going to be dull and routine he is very much mistaken, for soon enough Sharky finds himself in deep with a high class prostitution ring, political corruption and cold blooded murder.
The Sharky's Machine of the title is the group of cops that Tom Sharky gathers for the case he is working on. What starts out as standard surveillance at the home of beautiful hooker Domino (Ward), turns into a bloody trip into the workings of the seedy kingpins pulling the strings. But the kicker here is that as Sharky becomes an unwilling voyeur to Dominoe's life, he finds himself falling for her. He's fascinated by her, he feels from a distance her sadness of a life that she knows no better of. Tom Sharky is a tough dude, a manly man, a perfect role for Reynolds in fact, but he also needs to be loved, he likes roses and wood carving, he looks back to a childhood lost, it's this compelling characterisation that lifts Sharky's Machine above many other cop thrillers in a similar vein.
The film is, however, still violent and unflinching in its observations of this seedy part of Atlanta. Scum, violence and abuse is never far away, and Reynolds the director shows a deft hand at balancing the rough with the smooth motions of the narrative. He also shows admirable restraint for sex scenes, choosing mostly to suggest rather than titillate, while his acting performance is top notch as he neatly layers the strands of Sharky's emotional psyche. Around Reynolds is an array of engaging professional performances, notably Casey, Keith, a wonderfully maniacal Silva and Ward, the latter of which blends smouldering sexuality with an innocence that tugs the old heart strings.
Some of the outcome is telegraphed early, and the ending, having been a frantic and bloody last quarter, is crowned too abruptly (a shame since it contains an awesome stunt), but much like Reynolds' 1975 film Hustle, this too is badly undervalued in the neo-noir universe. 8/10