A veteran cop goes after a nasty pimp in this action yarn from the arresting 1980s.
Great cop flicks need to start with a bang and they don’t violate that rule. It opens with tough narcotics detective Sharky bringing down a flashy dealer. The operation only gets fouled up when his back-up arrives early. Turns out this drug dealer packs a huge pistol that appears to shoot incendiary bullets (one misfire causes an Audi to explode). The bad guy takes hostages aboard a bus, but Sharky saves the day with some fancy shooting, which is little comfort to the two civilian casualties caught in the crossfire.
Instead of following up this massacre with some soul searching, we get a bitter Sharky grumbling about being moved to the vice squad (where he can supposedly do less damage, Ha!). It doesn’t take Sharky long to get a new investigation moving when he figures out that a string of high-priced call girls are being used to infiltrate the government and the police department. He gathers together some fellow officers, medical personnel and a relative and gets them all to help out.
Pretty soon his new boss is tearing his own hair out as Sharky and company illegally wiretap a hot hooker named Dominoe. Their surveillance reveals that she is in bed with the Governor and a crime lord named Victor. This is a work of fiction, of course, since a sitting Governor would never get involved with a hooker or take a pay off. The state representative is a bit of a lovesick boob. He buys Dominoe a house and she promptly announces her retirement. Victor opts to have her rubbed out but lets his own brother do the job. Bad idea, as this guy is so coked up, it’s as if he stepped out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel.
The hit man accidentally shoots Dominoe’s girlfriend but the shotgun he uses doesn’t leave enough of her features intact and everyone assumes Dominoe is dead. When she shows up at her place, Sharky realizes that they now have a living witness with enough incentive to testify against Victor. He gets so carried away that he can’t restrain himself from bragging about this fact to Victor. I want to play poker with this dude. It’s as if he never learned anything form the bus episode .
Now that Victor has been alerted to the danger, he sends every goon he can find to kill Sharky and Dominoe. Sharky himself gets captured and, in an agonizing sequence, loses two fingers to a knife-happy thug before escaping. A few of his friends die too, and it s basically his fault. This was a typical development for a 1980s cop flick. The hero usually lived but everyone around him paid the price for the guy. Collateral damage was en vogue and you could measure a good guy’s rebelliousness by how many of his friends are still breathing by the end credits.
However, every 1980s action movie is measured by how well they take out the last bad guy, and this one nails it. You get to see a guy survive multiple bullet wounds and a collapsed lung before he is shot out of a 50-story building. Huzzah!
The best thing about this one is it assembles a great cast and gives them lots to do before killing them all off in the final reel. Burt Reynolds anchors everything as Sharky. He may be known for his dumb car comedies, but his cop flicks were ultra cool nihilistic gems. Check out “Hustle,” “Fuzz,” and “Shamus” for more of the same.
Here, he gets to direct, too, and he gets a great ensemble together. Brian Keith, Bernie Casey and Charles Durning play fellow cops, while Henry Silva and Vittorio Gassman play the bad guys. Rachel Ward is also on hand as the hooker who gets a thousand bucks per client and is willing to kiss on the mouth.
Dumb but a lot of fun.
1981, rated R.
Best line: “They broke him like a stick. They kung-fu’d him.”