Friday, March 30, 2012

Shamus (1973)

A routine detective thriller enlivened by chipper leading performances, Shamus should have initiated another crowd-pleasing Burt Reynolds franchise. Alas, the movie wasn’t interesting or successful enough to warrant a reprise, so we’ll never know how Reynolds might have built on his enjoyable turn as smartass private dick Shamus McCoy. Featuring the requisite array of comical quirks—his bed is a pool table, he looks after a stray cat, he operates his business from a dive bar—the Shamus character comes straight off the crime-fiction assembly line. Additionally, the plot of this movie is so bland it could have been the basis for an episode of Kojak. The story begins with a horrific murder, when a killer wearing a protective suit uses a flamethrower to murder victims before robbing their safe. After being hired to recover the stolen loot, Shamus uncovers a scheme to sell surplus Army weaponry on the black market. Leading lady Dyan Cannon plays the sister of someone involved in the scheme, so it takes a while for her and Reynolds to get together. Despite the blah narrative, Reynolds is charming and loose, while Cannon elevates a nothing role. When these two display their warm interplay in casual shared scenes, which isn’t often enough, Shamus nearly coalesces into something memorable. Additionally, Reynolds runs wild through the movie’s many action scenes, performing a number of his own stunts, so it’s easy to buy Shamus as a badass capable of taking on cops, criminals, and even the U.S. military. Director Buzz Kulik keeps the pace brisk, delivering the shoot-’em-up goods between vignettes of Reynolds pressuring informants and/or wooing ladies, but Shamus is merely a forgettable diversion, wasting any potential inherent to the main character. His big-screen career over, the Shamus McCoy character returned in 1976 for a TV movie called A Matter of Wife . . . and Death, with Rod Taylor taking over Reynolds’ role.

Shamus: FUNKY

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