Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
An okay but undeveloped comedy-drama about the pranks of an urban rebel, Turk 182! is
mired in a bog of credibility problems. It was the last effort of consequence for oddball director
Bob Clark, who made a great horror film
Deathdream and the modern
holiday classic A Christmas Story, but also the groaningly odious Porky's. Turk
182! has some pleasing performers and in some ways resembles an old-fashioned Frank Capra
film, with all the cornball trimmings.
After NY firefighter Terry Lynch (Robert Urich) is injured rescuing a child from a
burning building, both he and his younger brother Jimmy (Timothy Hutton) are shocked to find
his pension denied because he was both off-duty and drinking at the time of the incident. Ignored
by the city bureaucracy, Jimmy appeals for aid directly to Mayor Tyler (Robert Culp) and is
rebuffed in public. He then retaliates with a one-man harassment campaign against the Mayor and
his 'polish the big apple' reelection campaign, interrupting the candidate's every publicity stop
with graffiti and signs reading "Turk 182." The slogan is soon famous, with everyone wanting to
find out who is behind it .. Terry's social worker Danny Boudreau (Kim Cattrall), and the Mayor's
security men (Darren McGavin and Peter Boyle).
Turk 182! tries very hard to be an audience-pleasing romp, with a working-class David going
up against the Goliath bureaucrats of New York City. If its story weren't so dumbed-down it
might have been a big hit. In time-honored Capra tradition, it presents an injustice with an
emotional basis and then sets up an entire city as unlikely antagonists. Nobody can argue with a
fireman rescuing a child from a burning building, and the first thing we ask is why Terry Lynch's
fire department isn't coming to his defense - they have unassailable lobbying powers. One mention
to the press about the saved infant, and they'd be calling Terry a hero and giving him the key to
The movie isn't about rights but about a personal feud between Robert Culp's mayor and Timothy
Hutton's rather fancifully-conceived hero. He's the kind of anti-intellectual free-spirit
who won't work and gets to tool around Manhattan on a cool motorcycle with sidecar. Said conveyance
can be parked on sidewalks, by the gates of hospitals and City Hall without ever being bothered by
the cops. The Mayor overreacts wildly by blowing up in public and calling Terry a drunk, a scene
even the dependable Robert Culp can't pull off.
Jimmy's graffiti antics are said to be the work of a mad genius, yet all the outrageous examples
we are given would be nigh-impossible to pull off in the middle of a big city - giant billboards
repainted, etc. Cop Darren McGavin and Peter Boyle's security man would have Jimmy in the hoosegow
in a day or two at the most. More likely than not, Mayor Tyler would co-opt him into his
reelection campaign - redressing the wrongs of the bureaucracy, etc.
Turk 182! also has a modern version of the thirties' female sidekick. Kim Cattrall's
social worker Danny has no real function in the story except to admire Jimmy. She seems to have no
work to do and instead follows Jimmy around for the better part of a week. When Danny discovers
Jimmy's secret identity, she's charmed right into his bed. Cattrall is always pleasant to
watch, but her character is truly dumb.
In true 1980s fashion, the Jimmy/Mayor Tyler feud becomes personal on a Rambo level that's
supposed to communicate directly to the audience. Jimmy uses the media to bring down his enemy,
and the cops are so frustrated by the rebel that hothead security man Peter Boyle tries to shoot
him. We're continually invited to side with the crowd cheering on Jimmy's continuing challenge,
with the slogan Turk 182! put up on a skywriting banner (how'd Jimmy fix that?) and flashing
down from the scoreboard at a big-league baseball game. Everybody gets to join in on Jimmy's
final triumph, even his brother. What exactly are they celebrating - anarchy? 1
Turk 182! is handsomely shot and professionally directed; Bob Clark makes the large crowd
scenes work, especially at the baseball stadium. But when we can't believe the central situation,
the story self-destructs. The only thing the film has going for it is its 'rebel stance,' which
seems to hark from Porky's and points to the filmmakers' shortcomings as storytellers.
Everybody loves a rebel but we like them to be rebellious about something a little more substantial.
Both the idea and most of the characters in Turk 182! are just a little ... dumb, and we
wonder why we're expected to take any of it seriously.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three had a working-class spirit that Turk 182! aspires
to imitate, to the extent of casting its Dick O'Neill and Robert E. Weill in memorable
bits. You'll also recognize Weill as the put-upon mail clerk in
The Hudsucker Proxy. O'Neill's powerhouse chief puts the perfect anti-authoritarian
rage into his defiance of Peter Boyle's stressed-out security man; he has the best and most natural
line in the film - "Ha! The bastards never heard of auxilliary backup!"
Anchor Bay's DVD of Turk 182! looks great. The film was seen mostly on cable TV in the middle
1980s, and was hurt by the pan-scan transfers - this must be why so many filmmakers gave up on
anamorphic widescreen, knowing that their films' more permanent home would be a little square box.
The enhanced transfer seen here restores the picture to its full dimensions.
Bob Clark contributes a slow-moving and rather thin commentary. He doesn't give us very much information
about the actors or other creatives who helped him make the movie, and mostly talks about himself -
slowly. This is in high contrast to his lively talk on the earlier disc for Deathdream. Rather
than concentrate on his career highs, he begins in a defensive mode by avoiding his own self-asked
question, where has he been for the last twenty years? A look at the IMDB shows a lot of down-market
credits, with a proposed remake of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things proposed for 2006.
There is also a trailer which looks to have been reformatted for television - it's pan-scanned and
slightly squeezed, giving us an idea of how the movie played on cable.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Turk 182! rates:
Movie: Good --
Supplements: trailer, Commentary by director Bob Clark
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 14, 2005
1. Terry Lynch has two major
hospital recoveries in the movie, and spends the second in a full body cast. Does that mean that the
events of the story cover a year or more? It seems to only be as long as the Mayor's reelection
campaign. On the other hand, the romance between Jimmy and Danny is so fast, it seems as if just a
couple of weeks have passed.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2005 Glenn Erickson
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