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Peter Weller in 1988's "Shakedown."

Shakedown November 16, 2018


James Glickenhaus



Peter Weller

Sam Elliott

Patricia Charbonneau

Antonio Fargas

Blanche Baker









1 Hr., 37 Mins.


hakedown, from 1988, cares about a gritty atmosphere but not logic — a problem when you’re trying to make a somewhat sordid, realism-drenched cop thriller. It stars Peter Weller as a high-foreheaded, valiant public defender named Roland, and Sam Elliott as a dirtied (hygienically, I mean) hippie policeman named Richie who does things his way. In the

film, they become a makeshift crime-fighting duo after Roland discovers that the New York Police Department homes more corrupt cops than Sugarfina does rainbow-colored gumballs. Richie, a loner, is an old friend — and perhaps the only person Roland knows, for certain, can help him with the exposing.


This is a ludicrous film, and not least because two men, mostly through sheer pluck, manage to rid New York of an unscrupulous faction in what appears to be a few months. Shakedown, exemplifying the perils of self-understanding versus outside perception, is convinced that it’s something of an early ‘70s, Scorsese-styled street drama with some courtroom praxis to give it some additional flavoring. Not the thinly plotted pulp adventure that it is.


Hogwild action sequences are commonplace. One of them is especially bananas — involving a convertible-vs.-private-jet chase (?) — that it could only really ever land in a piece of entertainment if it were hand-drawn and starred anthropomorphic animals. Others, like a physics-defying gun battle downtown and a roller-coaster-hosted showdown, are aggressively pulpy.


Because the unintentional slapstick of the action sequences does not carry over into the straight-faced theatrics of everything else — the film is either preoccupied with well-acted-but-scattered courtroom-set scenes or a gratuitous affair Roland is having with the rival assistant district attorney (Patricia Charbonneau) — the film is rendered loudly uneven. It’s a stringing together of exasperating pieces of action without much effective, or tonally sound, story to depose the frivolity.


A foolishly conceived film, undoubtedly. But in trying to do so many things at once, Shakedown makes for the sort of entertainment you can’t help but like, in spite of its multitudinous shortcomings. It threatens to go down into so-bad-it’s-good territories, but it's made with such enthusiasm that we wouldn’t dare consider it among the pictures listed in the unofficial murderer’s row of the all-time worst. So I’ll call Shakedown an energetic mess. In a way, it even reminds me of a cinematic boxing match. The players are Action and Reason; in the end, both end up on the floor. No one wins, sure, but the fight was fun to watch. B-


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