Ah, 1981. A time when a supposedly likeable, good guy police officer character investigating a murder could say things like, “This the same one who iced that chink hooker?” A time when even the progressive characters had no idea how racist or misogynistic they were. A simpler time, when Burt Reynolds was given the director’s chair and the money to make Sharky’s Machine.
After a street shootout leaves a perp dead and an innocent bystander injured, tough Narcotics cop, Tom Sharky (Reynolds) is busted down to working Vice, the lowest job in the police department. Seemingly surrounded by has beens, rookies and those cops who just can’t cut it, Sharky’s new assignment means low level cases, arresting low level thugs and dealing with low level crimes. Or busy work, like babysitting a local politician. Until a routine hooker arrest turns out to be connected to a double murder and the babysat politician.
Calling in a favour from his more prestigious days on the force, Sharky begins some surveillance. Some sexy, sexy surveillance. And by that, I mean some really creepy surveillance. Now Sharky and his Vice colleagues are mixed up in a crime much bigger than their department should ever handle, and their reputation as nothing to be taken seriously makes them the perfect underdogs to take down the man.
While Reynlods surveillance work as Sharky might be a bit creepy, his work as a director goes balls out freaky, deeky creepy. A scene where the surveilled woman seduces a gentleman visitor is cheesier than any nachos you’ve ever eaten, yet not even in a funny way. Just in a leering, sleazy way.
Sharky’s Machine is extremely by the numbers, predictable and nothing you haven’t seen dozens of times before. The only thing extraordinary about this movie is how extraordinarily unremarkable and beige it is. Even a karate guy with nun chucks is boring in this movie. How do you make a karate dude with nun chucks boring? If I had to make a list of the most not boring things in the world, you’d better believe that a karate dude with nun chucks is making that list. And ranking pretty high too. Like maybe just under a monkey dressed as a cowboy riding a dog like a horse.
I think all of these negative things are true about Sharky’s Machine, but I have to be honest and say that I can’t say these things are definite facts. The truth is, this movie lost my attention early and often, meaning long stretches would pass and I would all of a sudden realise that I’d long ago zoned out and had not consciously watched or taken anything in for some pretty substantial portions.
Burt Reynolds really outdid himself with the ineffectiveness of this movie. In parts it’s a thriller with now thrills, an action movie with very little action, erotic titillation with no eroticism. I don’t expect highbrow art or prestige film making from Reynolds, but I do expect big, easily accessible entertainment. Sharky’s Machine is a level of bland, boring, vanilla movie making, storytelling and acting that I really didn’t think Reynolds was capable of.