Shakedown (1988) a (gnarly) belated review

I first saw the Peter Weller (Robocop) and Sam Elliot (The Big Lebowski) way, waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy back when it was likely first released and not since. The details of the film were, naturally, pretty hazy, though I did feel like I enjoyed the film but maybe didn’t feel it was “spectacular”.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

So being as I was traveling again and needed some entertainment during the flight, I downloaded some films and decided on the way there I’d see Shakedown again. I mean, we’re talking about primo Peter Weller and Sam Elliott. A weird team for an action film, I would grant you, but I was up for it.

…and what a wild ride the film turned out to be!

To begin with, you cannot take this film seriously. Especially during some of the crazy action sequences in it. But the film is filled to the brim with character moments and a plot that tries to be pulpy and “serious” but settles into sleazy (at times) and typical 80’s action fest.

The movie’s director and co-writer, James Glickenhaus had previously worked on The Exterminator and The Soldier. He also produced a number of cult films like Manic Cop, Basket Case 2 and 3, and Frankenhooker…! He would walk away from movies by the mid-1990’s and became a Wall Street fund manager.

What a life!

Anyway, getting back to Shakedown

The movie opens with a drug dealer (a young Richard Brooks) meeting up with a potential buyer. But things go sideways and the buyer is killed while the drug dealer is injured. The dead man, it turns out, was a cop and, naturally, the police feel he was undercover and our drug dealer murdered him when he was about to be arrested.

Roland Dalton (Peter Weller) is assigned as his lawyer and after talking to the drug dealer begins to suspect something is amiss… The dealer insists the cop never identified himself as such and that he genuinely thought he was going to be robbed and murdered and therefore acted in self-defense.

With this information in hand, Dalton meets up with Richie Marks (Sam Elliot), a rough and tumble undercover cop, and asks him about the possibility this case might be more than it seems. Marks has his doubts, but it’s clear he knows there are dirty cops in New York City…

What follows is a mix of courtroom drama and crazy-ass gunplay, of scaffolds falling and car and foot chases, culminating in one of the most bat-shit crazy climaxes I’ve seen in any film. It truly has to be seen to be believed….!

Look, the film isn’t “art”. It isn’t always coherent. But the acting is good enough and the action sequences come regularly enough and you root for the good guys and hiss at the bad guys and I have to be honest… I wish the film had a just-as-crazy a sequel.

Weller and Elliot make for a good team.

Recommended… as long as you accept the film’s cheese!

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