Picks and Pans Review: Sharky's Machine

updated 01/25/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/25/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

Sometimes little treasures show up in the unlikeliest places. This would seem to be a routine Burt Reynolds cops-and-robbers movie, with a familiar plot: A high-class hooker embroils a leading candidate for Governor in murder and corruption. But Reynolds directs the film with uncommon style, using tight close-ups and moody lighting that add texture to even the most mundane scenes. Playing an Atlanta police sergeant who is demoted to the vice squad and stumbles onto the scandal, he acts with more nuance than he has since Deliverance. He also draws uniformly splendid supporting performances from, among others, Earl Holliman as the politician, Vittorio Gassman as the inevitable Mr. Big, Henry Silva as a hit man, Darryl Hickman as a cop on the take, and Bernie Casey, Charles Durning, Brian Keith and Richard Libertini as Reynolds' cohorts. They and screenwriter Gerald Di Pego (he wrote the TV movie A Family Upside Down) manage to turn even minor characters into personalities. Reynolds winds up in a pat romance with the hooker—played nicely by British model Rachel Ward, who bears an almost-too-close-for-comfort resemblance to countrywoman Lesley-Anne Down—and there's a little too much wisecracking. Violence and obscenity, though never arbitrary, are frequent. But this is mostly a film of energetic, gratifying surprises, down to the final cleverly paced shootout. (R)

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