In 1981, at the height of his powers, Burt Reynolds directed and starred in the action thriller Sharky’s Machine, an effective neo-noir about a squad of low-on-the-totem-pole cops and associates of Reynolds’ disgraced vice cop, Sharky, trying to nail an Atlanta crime kingpin. The film earned solid reviews and a decent box office haul of $35 million domestic, which would be around $120 million today. Based on the novel by William Diehl, it retains a cult status today and counts fans such as Quentin Tarantino, who used the 1981 movie’s version of the Randy Crawford song “Street Life” in his 1997 film Jackie Brown.
Back in 2006 it was announced that a Departed-era Mark Wahlberg was teaming up with Gridiron Gang director Phil Joanou to remake Sharky’s Machine for Warner Bros. and Thunder Road producer Basil Iwanyk. Recently, while interviewing Iwanyk about his work on the John Wick franchise, Above the Line asked him if there had been any movement on the remake, which he told us was actually the first movie he ever set up as a producer.
“There hasn’t been, no,” Iwanyk relayed sadly. “It was a movie that was greenlit with Phil Joanou and Mark Wahlberg, and it’s such a great idea for a movie. I have the book here on my shelf, too. It’s a great book. I met Burt Reynolds about it. It’s such a cool movie and a great ending with that famous Dar Robinson stunt. I still think that’s a great idea for a movie. Those were the days when other studios, but especially Warners, made those mid-level action movies and thrillers. When I was an executive there on Insomnia and Training Day, those were my bread and butter. When I went back there, I was a producer, and I’m like, ‘Sharky’s Machine… Sharky’s Machine is the next one,’ and it just went sideways. It breaks my heart.”
At its core, Sharkey’s Machine was itself a loose remake/homage to one of the greatest noirs ever made, Laura, which was Reynolds’ favorite movie. If it ever got off the ground, would the remake have retained that core influence? The short answer is “no,” at least not in the script that was being penned by Jerry Stahl, Doug Miro, and Carlos Bernard.
“My parents named my sister Laura after that movie,” Iwanyk told us. “It definitely became less noir-ish and more loser cops, guys who are sent into the shadows. Trying to figure their shit out. No, it did lose a little bit of the Laura of it all. There was a romance. It was definitely more muscular than the original movie was. But I remember the original movie was close. I think it was Keith David, how he gets shot at the end. It’s great filmmaking in that movie at some moments along the way. There’s also stuff that’s incredibly ridiculous. Like Burt and his female co-star… Burt shoots himself like he’s, you know, Burt Reynolds.”
Would you want to see a Sharky’s Machine remake revived by Warner Bros., or should it be left alone? Let us know in the comments!