A William Diehl novel was the source of the noirish nailbiter Sharky's Machine. Sharky (Burt Reynolds) is an undercover cop who fouls up an assignment and is kicked downstairs to the vice squad -- a rough-shod bunch of hellraisers who make life miserable. Soon, however, Sharky's life does a 180 when he encounters Dominoe (Rachel Ward) a prostitute seemingly in danger from her interaction with a number of very seedy thugs. To protect her, Sharky lines the high-rise apartment across from her residence with security cameras and surveillance equipment -- which only makes matters sticky as Sharky begins to fall in love with her. The film opened to a very warm critical reception (Janet Maslin observed that "Burt Reynolds establishes himself as yet another movie star who is as valuable behind the camera as he is in front of it"). It also features one of the most dangerous stunts on film, wherein the late stuntman Dar Robinson free falls from 16 stories off the ground. The "machine" of the title refers to Sharky's fellow cops, played by heavyweights Brian Keith, Charles Durning, Bernie Casey, and others.
by Hal Erickson synopsis