Man, when I was a kid, the only movie that I think HBO had — besides The Car — seemed to be Sharky’s Machine. I never watched it back then and I totally should have, because it would have changed my life.
Based on the book by William Diehl, which was sent to the film’s director and star Burt Reynolds by Sidney Sheldon, this was Reynold’s chance to get away from the funnier movies he’d been making. He told the Boston Globe, “I figured it was time to get away from Smokey. I’d been doing a lot of comedy in recent years, and people had forgotten about Deliverance.”
Reynolds wanted to make a movie like his favorite film ever — the noir masterwork Laura — and he wanted John Boorman to direct. However, he was busy with Excalibur.
A bust gone wrong has moved Tom Sharky (Reynolds) from drugs to the vice squad, the worst occupation a police officer can have. Working under Frescoe (Charles Durning), our hero discovers a high-class prostitution ring that includes a thousand dollar a night girl named Domino Brittain (Rachel Ward) who is connected to governor candidate Donald Hotchkins, who is owned by Victor D’Anton (Italian star Vittorio Gassman).
One evening, while conducting surveillance and falling for Domino, Sharky watches her get blasted in the face with a shotgun by the evil William “Billy Score” Scorelli. Let me tell you, if you think Henry Silva was great before, this is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen him. He’s a force of complete terror and mayhem in this and I couldn’t love him any more after the ending of this film, which features the highest free-fall stunt ever performed from a building for a commercially released film.
As everyone thinks Domino is dead, she suddenly shows up and tells Sharky that it was her friend that ate the blast to the face. Now, she could bring the entire conspiracy down, if everyone can just stay alive.
Tough cop movies only wish they were a sliver as good as this movie. I mean, you have Bernie Casey and Brian Keith as cops, you’ve got bad guys slicing off Burt’s fingers and you have a Doc Severinsen-orchestrated theme that Tarantino took for Jackie Brown.
Supposedly, when Clint Eastwood made Every Which Way but Loose, Reynolds said, “Clint, you’re getting into my territory and if it’s a success, I’m going out and make Dirty Harry Goes to Atlanta!”. When this film went into production, Eastwood sent a telegram to Reynolds saying, “You really weren’t kidding, were you?”