Movie review: ‘Turk 182!’

t182Since I reviewed director Bob Clark’s classic “A Christmas Story” (click here for my review) for the eve of the holiday, I was reminded as I looked back at his career (he also did the raunch-comedy classic “Porky’s” – click here for my review) that he also did “Turk 182!” It is a neat little film that no one remembers but is well worth it (no matter what critics said and why audiences didn’t buy tickets at the time). I’ll always take endearing in a film and “Turk 182!” is no exception. It has a nice plot and some really good low-key acting on display here (you won’t find any manic Robin Williams stuff in “Turk 182!”). All in all, you could do much worse than watch this one again (or for the first time if you missed it years ago). You’ll have to go a ways to find it – it’s a toughie to locate. Well worth it, though.

‘Turk 182!’
(1985; 102 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Bob Clark and starring Timothy Hutton, Robert Urich, Kim Cattrall and Darren McGavin)

REVENGE IS BEST WHEN YOU USE SUBLIME TALENTS

(NOTE: I expanded this review with some additional opinion and trivia and I corrected a few typos on June 26, 2016.)

Many enjoy the good old underdog in cinema. He or she has been or is being vexed – most often by some bureaucrat – and has little recourse than to take matters into their own hands. “Turk 182!” is a wonderful example of this type of film and its passion kind of creeps up on you and before it’s over, you’ll be pulled in to pulling for the good guy.

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The good guy in “Turk 182!” is Timothy Hutton, who plays “Jimmy Lynch.” Hutton is just four years from his Oscar (and two Golden Globes) for “Ordinary People,” and while “Turk 182!” isn’t the equal to “Ordinary People” it is good. It’s obviously more fun than the family-beside-itself-with-angst film, so let’s celebrate that (and director Bob “Porky’s” Clark) rather than mooning over a bunch of hand-wringing dweebs in flawed piece of treacle such as “Ordinary People.”

In “Turk 182!,” Hutton’s brother, Robert Ulrich playing “Terry Lynch,” is a brave firefighter who is off-duty and having a few when a fire breaks out. He goes inside, rescues a girl and is injured in a fall. Of course the bureaucracy backs up on him and when Hutton tries to get some relief with a direct appeal to the mayor, that wonderful civil servant (the equally wonderful Robert Culp as “Mayor Tyler”) after being told alcohol was involved calls Ulrich a “drunk.”

It’s really not the thing to say to Hutton, who starts slowly with some vandalism of the mayor’s office (security was a lot less tight a generation ago) that leads to a snowball’s going downhill effect in the whole mess. The cops roust Ulrich, who winds up in a body cast, and Hutton now is energized to bring down the mayor. He hears about a scandal and begins to put up “Tyler knew” signs in very public places and tags his work “Turk 182” (it turns out that other firefighters called Ulrich “Turk” and that 182 is his badge number).

From simple graffiti (including, hilariously, on a police horse) to swapping out a flying banner on a plane to monkeying with the scoreboard at a pro football game, Hutton makes hay with his creativity and simplicity of attack. It is an instant hit with New Yorkers, who really love seeing someone stick it to a public official. Of course, this just makes everything worse for the police and bureaucrats.

It all comes down to a final stunt (after Hutton has given an interview to an at-first skeptical TV reporter) at a bridge dedication where everyone comes together – even the mayor – to cheer Hutton on against the forces of villainy (so capably played by Peter Boyle as “Det. Ryan”). Even the union workers on the bridge take glee in foiling the cops.

Here’s a look at some of the primary cast:

  • As I already mentioned, Hutton is an Oscar winner and he does a good turn here, appearing to somewhat stumble through all of his shenanigans with a sense of a mystified wonder, but there’s a barely hidden aplomb in his journey to strike back at the mayor. Hutton knows just the right tone to take throughout. He has also been in “Taps,” more recently in TV’s “Leverage” and was the key to making “The Falcon and the Snowman” a better movie by offsetting Sean Penn’s typically whiny, subpar performance.
  • As I noted, Primetime Emmy winner Boyle, who was an actor’s actor, does a great job here as the hard-hearted and hard-headed cop. He’s just the dramatic side of his “Frank Barone” from TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” (he had seven Emmy nominations for that one) and does irascible and determined very well. Boyle has also been in “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” with Robert Mitchum as well as “Taxi Driver” and “Monster’s Ball.” He died in 2006 at the age of 71 after a career with 94 credits over five decades. His Emmy was for the “The X-Files” and his last credit came just over two years after his death.
  • Kim Cattrall, who is in her second movie here after “Police Academy” (which followed her iconic stint in “Porky’s”), plays “Danielle ‘Danny’ Boudreau” and is a social worker on Ulrich’s case. She becomes the object of Hutton’s affection (no kidding) and does a solid, straightforward turn here. Cattrall is most famous for her work on “Sex and the City” and has also been in “Mannequin” (click here for my review) and “Live Nude Girls.”
  • One of my favorite character actors is here. Primetime Emmy nominee Darren McGavin plays “Det. Kowalski.” He’s the level-headed cop who knows that “Turk” isn’t a horrible criminal. McGavin does a good job in being the counterbalance to Boyle. McGavin was also in the great TV movie “The Night Stalker” (click here for my review) and is most famous for his portrayal of the father in Clark’s “A Christmas Story.” He notched a prolific 184 roles on TV and in film over his career of seven decades. McGavin died at the age of 83 in 2006 and his Emmy nomination was for an episode of “Murphy Brown.”
  • Another of by favorite actors from days gone by is also here, with Culp, who was on TV’s “I Spy” and earned a Golden Globe nomination for it. Culp, who as the mayor and victim of Hutton, is of a generation of actors who all too easily could come off affable and fun one moment and a bit more serious the next. He does a good job here, but not as good as he was in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” or the long-forgotten cop drama “Hickey and Boggs.” He was especially good as a gunfighter with Raquel Welch in “Hannie Caulder.” Culp died in 2010 of a heart attack at the age of 79 and was Ray Romano’s father-in-law in TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
  • Urich is just OK here as “Terry Lynch” (that’s why I’m reviewing him here and not higher up as reflected in his billing in the film), but unfortunately doesn’t do much with his character and luckily the film doesn’t waste any more time than necessary with is character. Ulrich has also been in TV’s “Spenser for Hire” and “Vega$” and he was a rookie cop in Clint Eastwood’s “Magnum Force” (click here for my review). He succumbed to cancer in 2002 at the age of 55.
  • Finally, I come to Dick O’Neill, who plays “Powerhouse Chief.” He stubbornly stands up to Boyle and then thwarts him after the cop shoots an electrical panel. He does it wonderfully and his few moments on screen are great. O’Neill, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 70, was also wonderful in the original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (click here for my review) in a prolific career of 134 credits over five decades in Hollywood.

Turk 182!” is a true definition of a bomb at the box office, as it was the 125th ranked film in the U.S. in 1985 with only $3.5 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It was also a bomb with investors since it was made on a $15 million budget, according to Wiki. Wow, it was such a flop that one of the worst films of all time “Gymkata” (with Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas – it actually has a disguised pommel horse so that Thomas can show off his gymnastics moves) finished ahead of it 111th place with $5.7 million. The No. 1 film was “Back to the Future” with $210.6 million. Here are films from that year that I have reviewed:

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Veteran actor Paul Sorvino has a nice cameo here as he’s announcing at the football game where Hutton strikes. He has also has been in “Goodfellas” and the even darker “The Cooler.”
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “Director Bob Clark and actress Kim Cattrall had previously worked together on Tribute (1980) and Porky’s (1982). The movie was the third of four collaborations, the other being Baby Geniuses (1999).”
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Though the film’s actual title is “Turk 182!”, movie posters and marketing materials for the film, including DVD and home video, have usually dropped the exclamation mark, publicizing the title without it as “Turk 182”.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014-2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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