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Case Number 02234

Buy Shamus at Amazon


Sony // 1973 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // September 24th, 2002

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All Rise...

The Charge

"You think you can buy me?"
"I'll pay you $10,000."
"You just bought me."

Opening Statement

One weekend, a group of friends decide that they aren't going to play the usual round of golf. (Obviously they aren't brokers. Obviously this little scenario doesn't take place anytime during the past 15 years.) Instead, they figure a canoe trip would be a perfect way to have a fantastic weekend. During their excursion down the water, things go from good to bad to worse when the locals decide that they don't like strangers in these parts. Faster than making a pig squeal, our friends are heels over head in trouble.

In 1972, Burt Reynolds starred in a rather disturbing film about friends, canoes, sodomy, and bad luck. In 1973, Burt followed up the highly captivating Deliverance with a film ten times as distressing as anything you saw the previous year. That could be a great thing if intentional; unfortunately, that isn't the situation here. Shamus is a bad, boring, blundering, blubbering, bloated, behemoth of a movie. It's such a shame too, for buried deep in the bowels of this film is a bauble of an idea that could have proved interesting, if it had been done right.

Facts of the Case

FADE IN. Camera pans around a typical bedroom. As the camera moves, we eventually see clothes tossed on the floor in a way that immediately evokes a sense of haste. The camera tilts up to see a man and a woman making whoopee, discreetly, under the covers of the bed.

OFF CAMERA, the sound of breaking glass. Quick cut to the ceiling reveals two men on the roof who have broken through the skylight.

QUICK CUT back to couple in bed. They sit up in shock and surprise.

ANOTHER QUICK CUT back to ceiling where we notice the men are dressed in shiny fireproof suits. Suddenly, the man in the foreground pushes some type of long handled instrument through the broken window. It's a flamethrower! Immediately, the bedroom in engulfed by fire, including the lovers in the bed.

FROM THE CEILING, the background man uses a rope to descend into the bedroom and opens a safe in the one corner of the room that was spared from use by the flamethrower. The safe is easily opened; a box is removed, attached to a rope, and lifted up. END SCENE.

ENTER Shamus McCoy (Burt Reynolds, Southern-born actor extraordinaire who, if I'm not mistaken, has not an ounce of Irish blood in him). Shamus is one of the thousands of private eyes in New York City. Down on his luck but far from unlucky, Shamus loves living on the edge, of ruin. One morning after an evening of carnal lust on top of a…pool table, Shamus gets a call requesting his presence at the estate of E.J. Hume. (E.J., he's a millionaire; he owns a mansion and a yacht.) Shamus is impressed enough by the unexpected phone call that he makes the long drive to the man's veritably palatial estate.

Mr. Hume wants to hire Shamus to investigate the bizarre flamethrower murders. Yes, he's a man with a great many resources and has already made subtle inquiries of the police, but he needs a man with Shamus' background and skills on the case. Why Shamus? Because after 53 phone calls, he's the first P.I. willing to show up at the estate. As he learns, the murders were a cover up for the diamond robbery that took place that night. Those are Mr. Hume's diamonds that were taken and he wants them back.

Shamus is skeptical of the story he is told, but agrees to take the case after he's offered quite the generous fee. Soon enough, Shamus is using all of his skills, friends, and luck to discover where the diamonds are. Much to his surprise, he learns that there is far more going on with Mr. Hume, the murders, and the diamonds than he could have imagined. At every turn there is danger, and Shamus will have to use every trick in the book to survive and figure out what is going on in this wild and dangerous case.

The Evidence

I have very, very little of a positive nature that I can convey about this film. Because of that, I have this gnawing feeling that this review is going to be as bad as the movie.

Being someone who, overall, likes Burt and his works, I was hoping that this early '70s flick would be better than what my gut was telling me. After all, how can my gut know how good or bad a film will be based on the packaging of a DVD? However it works, my gut was right and this film blows chunky salsa—maybe that's what they used in that squib? (I'll get back to that later.)

As I said earlier, the germ of the idea for this movie really does have some potential, but everything falls flat in this one. The dialogue, the acting, the characters, the inconsistent plot, and the obvious lack of care make this film something best left in the studio's buried vault. Seeing though as it's broken free of its confines, it's up to me to persuade you to exit stage left before you come into contact with this dud.

Let me recap what's good about the movie: the original idea.

Now, let me move on to what's bad about the film. Is there enough room for the multitude of dreadful things plaguing this film? Sure! It's the 'net. We can go on forever, but I won't. In order to expedite things, I'm just going to rattle off a semi-long list of things that hurt this film. Forgive the way I'm doing this, but it's the only way that's coming to mind.

• The video transfer on this little bugger most decidedly shows its age. Sporting some significant grain, the transfer is very soft and dull. In spite of that, the colors are accurate and the picture does not suffer from any edge enhancement or other transfer errors. All of that is completely meaningless as Columbia has given us a full screen transfer. Because they failed to offer us the movie in its original aspect ratio, the video score is halved.
• Not faring much better is the 2.0 Dolby Digital track. It's a serviceable track, but it's definitely anemic. The sound is thin, skews towards the treble frequencies, and often produces dialogue that is muffled and unclear. As the movie is low on dynamic action, you aren't missing much in the sound department.
• The direction of this film is lazy. While the overall ambience is nicely set, no one is really trying here. Everyone seems to be on autopilot, or they simply just don't care about what they're doing. Poor execution and motivation from the top guy drags everyone down.
• An extension of the above, the climax of the movie is supposed to be the best part of the film. Many times that's not the case because of a faulty script or bad planning (as in Clear and Present Danger). In Shamus, no one is trying. None of the pieces really tie together, and you have no sense of resolution. How does this relate to that? Why did he do that to him? What happened to that? So many questions left unanswered. So many plot threads left dangling.
• You know you're in bad shape when you end up seeing the squib of the one person who gets shot on screen. The guy gets shot, he falls backwards, the squib explodes, tearing open his shirt clearly letting us see the blood package taped to his chest. Very sad. They didn't even try to hide it.
• You know you're in worse shape when the cat in the movie gets billed in the credits. (I will easily cut some slack as I love cats, and it is Morris the cat to boot!)
• No time is taken to develop any of the characters. The most you get from the story is a sense of how "quirky" Shamus and Hume are. Shamus' eccentricities are highlighted during his introduction, and Hume's (one) oddity is tossed to you with Technicolor subtlety. Actually, there's no subtlety whatsoever. The movie pounds out the characters with a sledgehammer and a mallet, and that has to pass for development.
• There's a supporting character who extremely annoying. All he does is rattle off these rather obscure sports facts. It's supposed to show you how good he is with remembering things, but I think it just makes him…annoying.
• Not a major problem, but was Burt wearing a wig by this point? His hair looks pretty bad here.
• Why would five guys be afraid of and run away from Burt? They wouldn't. They'd kick his butt into next week. This movie is thoroughly unrealistic in many ways. Beyond the stupid thugs and bad fights, Shamus has two methods of detective work: (1) beating people up for information and (2) the Columbo mode of investigation. If he doesn't think a choke hold with garner any information, he'll do the "oh, and one other thing" line as he's walking out of a room. And, as stupid as it really is, he gets every bit of information he needs.
• Bad dialogue. Oh, the humanity! This film is replete with hideous dialogue!
• In my humble opinion, Burt is not a stud, yet he gets a different woman every night with little to no effort.

At this point, I think you have a pretty good idea that this movie is bad. Unfortunately, it's not campy or guilty pleasure bad. It's just bad. There's no fun in this one.

As for special features, you are treated to a couple of trailers: Bad Boys, Harry and Walter Go to New York, and Snatch. Now, I'm sitting here trying to figure out the connection between those threes movies and Shamus, and further wondering why the trailer for this movie wasn't included. I know if I hop over to IMDb, the answer will be right there. But for the average Joe, what's the connection? Very, very odd choices.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Burt Reynolds is so much fun to watch. He's a confident, bold, and enthusiastic actor. By thoroughly immersing himself in a part, any movie gets a boost from his innate talent. This story is slick, complicated, and surprising, and it benefits from Burt's natural talents and charisma. Not only is he one of the sexiest men ever, he's also a fantastic thespian who brings new levels of skill to what could be a one-dimensional role.

Closing Statement

Give this one a wide berth. Don't rent it. Don't buy it. Don't even stop on it if you happen to stumble across it on cable. This is simply wasted time and effort. There are so many other movies that are worthy of your time, don't give this one a second—or first—thought.

The Verdict

Guilty. Burt Reynolds is hereby sentenced to a return trip down the Cahulawassee River. Perhaps he'll then learn the folly of taking on bad roles.

Case adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 38
Audio: 65
Extras: 5
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 65

Special Commendations

• Bottom 100 Discs: #80

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Crime

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailers for Bad Boys, Harry and Walter Go to New York, and Snatch


• IMDb

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