Judge Brett Cullum 713!
"Could Turk 182 replace Michael Jackson as the #1 obsession of
Turk 182! is a "chick flick" made for straight guys, from the same director who brought us classics of male cinema such as Porky's and A Christmas Story. Bob Clark should be declared the patron saint of Spike TV. Unfortunately, Clark is also responsible for turkeys like Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 and Rhinestone, which derailed both Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone's careers for a bit. Turk 182! is certainly a cult favorite, but hardly a cinematic classic, and lies somewhere between Clark's best and worst efforts. Anchor Bay offers us a chance to see this film, which has long been out of print on VHS, in a new DVD widescreen transfer. Do you love the '80s enough to pick up Turk 182!, or is it better left in the same place you stashed your beret and parachute pants?
Turk 182! tells the story of a young Brooklyn artist named Jimmy Lynch (Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People) who gets angry when the city denies his brother Terry's firefighter pension. Terry (Robert Urich, Spenser: For Hire) was injured while saving a little girl trapped in a blazing building, but he was off-duty and had been drinking beer before the rescue. Nobody will listen to Jimmy's pleas that his brother be recognized as a hero and given his pension back—not even the corrupt mayor (Robert Culp, The Greatest American Hero), who is up for re-election. So what's a young man to do when "attention must be paid?" Why, become an elaborate prankster who tags public places with his brother's nickname and badge number—"Turk 182." All this to make a city and a mayor finally do the right thing.
The story was loosely based on some true events, but it is largely fantasy. In a post-9/11 world it's hard to believe anyone would have a hard time drumming up support for a heroic firefighter. And to be honest, it was a hard pill to swallow even back in 1985. Robert Culp's mayor character publicly chastises the "drunk" in front of many news cameras at one point. Would any politician be caught doing this? And why can't anyone figure out who is doing the defacing of city property? Come on, the kid is using his brother's nickname and badge number, and not even his brother clues in to who Turk 182 is. Jimmy sees (and accosts) the mayor just before he redecorates the politician's office with letters, yet they blame his brother. A head of security sees Jimmy spray-painting a train…and they still don't suspect that maybe he's Turk 182. Clark wisely avoids most of the logistics of Jimmy's vandalism. It is said that during the climatic bridge sequence, Jimmy greased the bridge so no cops could get to him. One man working alone greased an entire bridge and realigned a sign of lights in an hour? I'm not buying it, but the movie asks you to. Jimmy pulls off some spectacular stunts all by his lonesome, and what would take any normal graffiti artist years to achieve he does in a couple of weeks.
In the end, what saves Turk 182! is a fine cast capable of pulling off its overly sentimental message effectively. Timothy Hutton knows how to play this melodrama: by being as real and sincere as he possibly can. Robert Urich just has to be likable and manage to not look too silly in a body cast. Robert Culp never really loses himself in the part of Mayor Tyler, but he rolls with the punches the script throws at him with panache and grace. Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond, Young Frankenstein) gets to go a little psychotic as the gun-wielding head of security, who is tired of being one-upped by a punk at every turn. Two Bob Clark veterans appear in the supporting cast as well. Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City, Big Trouble in Little China) has been in four Clark films, and here appears as a sexy social worker who wants to help in any way she can. Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) (six projects with Bob Clark) does a brief turn here as a detective hot on Jimmy's trail. The entire cast plays the movie sincerely for the most part, and their performances, coupled with Clark's able handling of crowd scenes, make the movie feel more authentic than it has any right to feel.
Anchor Bay is a noted savior of obscure titles, and they certainly do a nice job with their release of Turk 182!. The transfer is in anamorphic widescreen and looks okay for the most part. The biggest problems include a whole lot of grain in many sequences, some overall softness to the image, and a lot of halos around any light source that crops up in the night scenes. On the whole, it's really not as bad as it sounds, but you will notice this one's age. The sound mix is a two-channel affair that's listed on the box as a "surround" mix. Um…okay. Sounds like stereo to me. Extras are sparse, but well done. Front and center is a commentary from director Bob Clark. He provides a lot of information about the production, and even offers some very personal insights into the actors. (Timothy Hutton is off seething somewhere right now.) The track is slightly awkward, as Clark repeats every question asked him (we don't hear the interviewer), and he often becomes very enthralled with watching his movie and forgets to talk for a while. There's a fullscreen trailer that has seen better days, and also a text biography of the director.
Turk 182! is a guilty pleasure from the '80s, and some people who remember it fondly will still find the movie charming twenty years later. Silly as it is, it still retains its likeability. It was never a big hit at the box office, mainly because Timothy Hutton also simultaneously starred in The Falcon and The Snowman, and was competing against himself in many theatres. Apparently, despite not doing huge business when it opened, the movie somehow developed a pretty solid cult following. Fans should be pleased the title is back in circulation, and can now chuck their out-of-print VHS copies into the garbage. Even though the transfer shows its age, Anchor Bay has provided some solid extras to round out the release. It makes for a nice evening as a rental, or a purchase if you happen to be a fan or obsessive '80s collector.
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Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary with Director Bob Clark
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