Bullet Points: Shakedown (1988)
Shakedown, starring Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, was written and directed by James Glickenhaus. Like his work in The Exterminator, Glickenhaus’ vision of New York City is very gritty and it has that 1970’s feel, despite the film being made in the late 1980’s.
I like that Glickenhaus is not afraid to show the seedy underbelly of New York City, making his movies seem more real despite the inclusion of the almost obligatory over the top action sequences that were featured in action entertainment’s golden era.
- The Premise: Peter Weller plays legal aid attorney Roland Dalton. Dalton has one more week defending criminals until he starts a new career on Wall Street (a career arranged by the father of his fiancée Gail Feinberger (played by Blanche Baker of Raw Deal fame). But Dalton’s final case pulls him in deeper than ever before into the world of law and order. Dalton is representing known drug dealer Michael Jones (played by Richard Brooks of The Substitute fame). Jones has been arrested for killing undercover narcotics officer Patrick O’Leary. But Jones contends, he had no idea that O’Leary was a cop when he shot him and that he only shot him in self defense. Now with the help of his maverick cop friend, Richie Marks (Sam Elliott of Road House fame), Dalton begins to uncover information that points the finger at some bad apples on the police force, information that makes Jones’ self defense story more and more believable.
- The Romance: Roland Dalton finds himself in a love triangle. First there’s Gail, his bride-to-be. She doesn’t really seem to get Roland. She’s not a fan of what he does for a living (hence getting her daddy to find Roland a spot on Wall Street). She doesn’t dig his choice in music (she has no idea who Jimi Hendrix is) and she’s already got the nagging down pat that usually only happens after years of marriage. So it is easy to see how Roland is easily caught up in a little side romance with an ex-flame, Susan Cantrell. Cantrell and Dalton cross paths thanks to the Michael Jones case as she is the ADA assigned to prosecute Jones. Old feelings die hard and soon the two lawyers take off their legal briefs and end up in the sack together, just like old times. An interesting note, Cantrell is played by Patricia Charbonneau of K2 fame. Charbonneau and Weller would go on to work with one another again in Robocop 2, where Charbonneau played the female technician that worked with Robocop at the police station.
- The Villains: Shakedown features a bunch of dirty narcotics cops, but the ring leader is Officer Rydel. Rydel is played by Larry Joshua, a guy who I have seen in minor roles in movies like Cradle 2 the Grave and Spider-Man. If you asked me to draw you a picture of what a shady cop looked like, I would draw you a picture of Larry Joshua as Rydel, that’s how good he was. Rydel is in bed with one of the top drug dealers in town, Nicky “N.C.” Carr. Carr is played by Antonio Fargas, who is probably best known for playing Huggy Bear on Starsky & Hutch, but who I will always remember as attorney/tailor Sonny Cochran on the greatest episode of Sanford & Son of all-time. To illustrate how intertwined this cop and drug dealer are, when Rydel starts to worry about Richie Marks interfering in his business, Rydel cuts a deal with Carr to have Marks eliminated.
- The Action: While it does not contain wall-to-wall action, Shakedown injects the action sequences in all the right places. You get some quality chase scenes with Sam Elliott riding a motorcycle and Peter Weller on the back with a gun blazing. There’s also the extreme entrance that Weller’s Roland Dalton makes when he shows up to the courthouse for closing arguments. But my favorite action sequence is when Carr sends two goons to kill Richie Marks. This leads to Marks and one of the goons battling on top of a Coney Island rollercoaster! That scene alone made the movie for me. And I haven’t even mentioned the balls to the wall finale that involved a Porsche and a private jet heading to Costa Rica! I love the 80’s!
Shakedown was one of those movies that was sitting on my DVR for months and after I watched it, I wondered why I waited so long. Elliott is tailor made for badass roles like that of Richie Marks. And Peter Weller did something only a talented actor could pull off, he played a likable lawyer!
Shakedown is a great blend of action, crime thriller and courtroom drama and another quality movie that got lost in the shuffle in the 1980’s thanks to all the action classics that decade provided us. And right now, I would like to provide you with some bonus Bullet Points…
- Orange Julius: The Roland Dalton version of an Orange Julius does not require you to go down to your local mall, instead you just need a blender, equal parts milk and orange juice, an egg and a sprinkling of Folgers crystals. Blend and you have yourself a liquid breakfast.
- Double Meaning: During their initial meeting, Michael Jones mentions you don’t want to mess with N.C. to Roland Dalton but then he clams up when Dalton asks what N.C. means. Jones was most likely talking about Nicky Carr but could he also have meant the Narcotics Cops? Hmmm….
- David Bowie Would Be Proud: Shakedown is known in many parts of the world as Blue Jean Cop.
- The Glickenhaus Theater: When Weller’s Roland Dalton first meets up with Elliott’s Richie Marks, Marks is hanging out in a movie theater that is showing The Exterminator and another Glickenhaus flick, 1982’s The Soldier. Meanwhile the theater right down the street was playing The Hidden and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
- He’s No Harold T. Stone: Paul Bartel, who you may remember from Chopping Mall or Twin Sitters, plays the Night Court Judge in Shakedown… Another familiar face was that of John C. McGinley of Platoon and The Rock fame.
- Missed Opportunity: Shakedown does not feature the song “Shakedown” by Bob Seger. Seger’s song did appear in the 1987 film Beverly Hills Cop II.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see a public defender scale the side of a building, then this is the movie for you.