Shakedown (1988)

  • Year: 1988
  • Released: 06 May 1988
  • Country: United States
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: R
  • Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
  • Runtime: 97 min
  • Writer: James Glickenhaus, James Borrelli
  • Director: James Glickenhaus
  • Cast: Peter Weller, Sam Elliott, Richard Brooks
  • Keywords: lawyer, drug dealer, cop, bad cop, renegade,

Shakedown Storyline

A drug dealer shoots a corrupt police officer. Though the drug dealer admits his guilt, he pleads self-defense. His lawyer, Roland Dalton, and renegade loner NYPD narcotics agent Richie Marks, pursue evidence in his favor. They encounter difficulties from other corrupt police officers, drug dealers, and various street scum. Dalton’s life is further complicated by the fact that the prosecuting attorney is a former lover.

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Shakedown Movie Reviews

So audacious you can’t help but love it.

The ever changing Times Square is at its sleaziest in this delightfully over the top crime drama where a private club right inside the New Amsterdam Theater, post Ziegfeld Follies and pre Lion King reconstruction. This is the type of club where the wrong guest gets electrocuted while receiving a massage which leads to a chase down the West Side Highway where the psycho killer is shooting at everything while driving a stolen cop car. He earlier got arrested by cop Sam Neill while preparing to trade sex for drugs for an obviously strung out white woman whose screams are heard as he is taken away without providing her much needed fix. Along with him is the head of this ring played by character actor Antonio Fargas who just reeks of sleazieness in the way he acts out this character, just as he did as Angie’s father on “All My Children”. The shot of a bus advertising “Starlight Express” is another amusing metaphor.

Give up all sense of reality as Neill and public defense Peter Weller take on the mob here with plenty of violence and ironic humor, and a conclusion in light of events 13 years later quite frightening and prophetic. Weller is defending a young pusher for killing an undercover cop, and this means dealing with the worst of New York City late 80’s society. Normally I would give films like this a lower rating but I was so entertained and riveted that I couldn’t help but thoroughly enjoy it. Neill and Weller are a great team here, and I am surprised that they didn’t attempt a sequel. The soap opera story surrounding his marital issues is completely inconsiquential.

“On the streets of this city, you are the law, but on the steps of this court, I am the law.” So says the glamorous Augusta Dabney as the judge in the trial, a very popular soap actress for 35 years, and the wife of William Prince, a veteran character actor who has a bit part in this film. It’s nice to see her in such a commanding part after playing the wealthy but gentle matriarch Isabelle Alden on “Loving”. In a bit part, veteran stage and screen character actress Shirley Stoler (an actress I presumed was unable to smile) manages a charming smirk when Weller amuses her as he tries to enter the Tombs. This is a film you won’t soon forget, especially with the plane ride over lower Manhattan that isn’t without its danger.

Blue Jean Cop

I don’t think anyone in Germany was or is familiar with the term. But I guess who ever decided to call the movie that, thought it sounded better than the shakedown … fair enough I reckon. As it is fair enough to enjoy this 80s movie insanity. I mean there are things here … you couldn’t pull off the same way nowadays because of repercussions and all that … not mention endangerment of the public, dishing out justice without consequences … and many other things.

But Peter Weller knows a thing or two about that of course. Here he is a lawyer though … there are others who play the baddies here. But generally speaking the cast is quite something! A lot of good people involved .. and the movie warrants their appearance – script is tight (if you don’t mind the 80s-ness as mentioned)! Not for everyone, but those who are into it, will enjoy it quite a bit

By the Numbers

It starts off with an interesting if already familiar problem: How do we dig out corruption in the NYPD when there is so much crack money floating around? In “Serpico” a Brooklyn narc hijacks the hero off the street and threatens him, saying, “This is serious money.” That’s the milieu we find ourselves in here.

Peter Weller is a nobody Legal Aid lawyer trying to get his drug-dealing client off because the suspect actually killed in self defense. An undercover cop tried to rip off his drugs and cash in Central Park, shooting him in the process. The opposing prosecutor is Weller’s ex-lover, Patricia Charbonneau. Weller enlists the aid of an undercover friend of his, Sam Elliot, in trying to uncover the truth.

The questions addressed are important, and the script sounds literate for the first half hour. Someone went to the trouble of ferreting out apt quotes about justice from the New Testament. But after that it goes downhill fast. It’s as if somebody had handed in a decent and thoughtful script about the characters, then another party had taken the script and doctored it, putting in a quote from Dirty Harry (twice), a shootout in what looks like Times Square, a funny car chase through the streets of New York (twice), wisecracks in times of mortal danger (“You drive, I’ll shoot.”), and finally a rip off of a physically impossible feat from Schwarzenegger’s “Commando.” Too bad. Charbonneau and Weller are well matched, each with prominent bony facial features. Charbonneau sounds like Sondra Locke if you close your eyes. Sam Elliot is reliable too, and he demonstrates his range here. At one end, he can lower his face then cock it over his shoulder at someone and offer sage advice with a smirk and a baritone. At the other end, he can chuckle. Peter Weller I’ve always liked, though he shows his limitations as an actor here. Whatever prompted him to pursue a Master’s degree in, what?, Ancient Civilizations? And then look for positions as Adjunct Professor at places like Franklin and Marshall and Syracuse University? (I’ve got it. He needed the money a part-time teacher makes!) Whatever his motives, I admire him for his intellectual curiosity. Weller’s character is no invincible superhero either. When somebody holds a gun to his head he’s scared to death and tells them what they want to know.

Notwithstanding all that, this isn’t a movie designed to appeal to grown ups. There’s no point in listing the plot loopholes or loose ends. The evil people are plain evil. The good people are plain good. There’s none of the ambiguity of real life. One can only wonder what a yeoman director like Don Seagal or Sidney Lumet might have done with material like this.