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Sharky’s Machine (Blu-ray Review)

Sharky's MachineBurt Reynolds was a busy man in the late 70s and early 80s.  He was one of the biggest film stars in the world.  And in 1981 he made three films.  Most memorable of them and popular is likely The Cannonball Run.  Another positive mark for Reynolds would be his adaptation of William Diehl’s novel, Sharky’s Machine, which he not only starred but directed.  Reynolds told rival larger than life actor/director Clint Eastwood that if he was going to make one of his movies (Referring to Every Which Way But Loose), then he was going to do Dirty Harry in Atlanta.  Sharky’s Machine wound up being another big hit for Reynolds, and his highest grossing directed film at the box office internationally.

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Film 

In this noirish nailbiter, Sharky is an undercover cop who is kicked downstairs to the vice squad. The disgraced cop holds gang leader Victor Scorelli responsible for his demotion. While consigned to Vice, Sharky organizes a highly trained group of men willing to take on cases that others avoid.  They wind up on a stake-out on the mistress of a local politician.  Through his binoculars, Sharky begins to fall for the woman who’s involvement goes much deeper than just a simple woman on the side.

Sharky’s Machine was intended to be the reunion of Burt Reynolds and John Boorman.  Their previous engagement was Deliverance.  Boorman was coming off Excalibur which had pretty much drained him and suggested Reynolds do it himself.  Burt was drain to the film because it reminded him of his all time favorite film, Laura.  It would be Reynold’s third trip to the director’s chair, preceded by Gator and The End.

Aside from a goofy montage that shows up in the film, Reynolds actually does some pretty terrific work here in crafting a modern (for its time) noir.  The open of the film is plenty engaging and feels like the kind of character introduction and sequence that would be borrowed many times over in the years to come.  Reynolds also masterfully orchestrates a few chase sequences and shootouts.  To top it off, this movie has the record stunt for the biggest free fall drop off of a building.

This movie could easily have been tightened up to be a more slick, action-oriented thriller, but I like Reynold’s restraint.  There’s an enjoyment in watching this cast just sit and hang out with each other.  There’s a lot of work done that feels maybe excessive at times (And I won’t deny a lot of it is little nothings that could easily be cut), but it helps raise the stakes for your attachment to characters later on.  It also helps to build on Sharky’s attraction.

If you’re into noir films or like the Dirty Harry series, Sharky’s Machine is right up the recommendation alley.  Reynolds does solid work both as a performer and a director (Maybe his best as a director?).  This film also boasts a really fun cast, including Bernie Casey and a scene stealing performance by Henry Silva that reminds me of Jon Lithgow’s in the Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.  The film may be a little long in the tooth, but its because its enjoying its characters and developing itself.  But, its worth it.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a really nice looking image, which surprised me as I figured Warner might be doing a catalog dump and just doing the bare minimum.  There are many moments in Sharky’s Machine that impress greatly.  Details like chipped paint on a door frame, finger smudges on a car door and seeing the corduroy pattern of one of Reynold’s jackets make for a good look.  Its also nice and sharp during brighter, daytime sequences.

Depth:  Some decent work done here.  Its above average and allows for some good moments, including the free fall off the building.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty rich and tend to hide a lot of detail from clothing and hair follicles.  Under lit scenes tend to get pretty grainy.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are a bit vivid.  Blues shine through the best.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are natural with a hint of going cold and consistent throughout.  Detail on close ups is ridiculously good.  You can see facial wrinkles, stubble and individual beads of sweat at given times.

Noise/Artifacts:  A nice layer of grain and some specs throughout.  Its a pretty clean print for the most part.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, German Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital.  Japanese Dolby Digital (Not listed on menu, only found through surfing audio)

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Japanese (Not listed on menu, only found through surfing subtitles)

Dynamics:  This could have easily been a great 2.0 track, but this 5.1 rendition isn’t all too shabby.  The score is the big highlight of this disc as its plenty rich and fulfilling.  Sound effects come across very distinct and loose in this mix.  There’s a measured balance of effects and vocals in the mix, but with the score taking over the scene without disrupting the others.

Low Frequency Extension: This track really picks up the music quite well.  Its like a concert in your viewing area.  The saw’d off shotgun roars through as well as glass shattering keeps the subwoofer busy.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The front speakers carry the load with the action and onscreen happenings.  The rear speakers have some activity, but its pretty much some lowered volume scoring and ambiance.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear and clean.

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Extras 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:53)

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Summary 

Sharky’s Machine is a very nice little 80s noir thriller, that truly is Burt Reynold’s take on Dirty Harry.  Reynolds does some solid work in the director’s chair and I think its one of his films that holds up better over time, though some may not enjoy the pacing.  This Blu-ray brings with it very good video and audio.  Unfortunately, the disc doesn’t offer anything in the way of bonus material.  Had Kino or anyone other than Warner had this, I’m sure we’d be looking at a nice new Burt Reynolds interview.  The important thing is that its now out and available.  It looks and sounds great, and best of all is super duper cheap right out the gate.

Sharky's Machine-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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