This summer’s been a bit of a bust on the movie scene. With the exception of a couple films – one being Bridesmaids, the other the soon-to-be released The Help, I really haven’t had much to look forward to. As much as I love this city, being here, with none of my usual LA movie goodies – advance screenings, screeners and premieres, bothers me more than you’ll ever know. I’m jonesing for something good.
Well guess what? I found an old chestnut in the wee hours of cable. Ever heard of Turk 182!...? Most people haven’t. Sigh. This 1985 gem, is a dramedy with lots of character and heart. Starring Tim Hutton, Robert Urich and Kim Cattrall, yes that Kim Cattrall of SATC fame, it’s a lovely little film about personal integrity, brotherly love and municipal accountability.
Robert Urich plays an off-duty firefighter injured while rescuing a little girl. Thing is, he was drinking at the time of the accident and the city refuses to pay disability. That doesn’t sit too well with Hutton – Urich’s younger brother in the film. Hutton tries to right this particular insurance wrong and is rebuffed at every turn. He gets the idea of approaching the Mayor (Robert Culp), who’s smack in the middle of running for re-election, to plead Urich’s case. During a televised event, Hutton approaches Culp, tells his brother’s story. The Mayor, on camera, promptly accuses Urich of being a drunk and attempting to bilk the system. Hutton and Urich by default, are summarily dissed and dismissed.
Hutton gets the idea of humiliating the Mayor by graffitying prominent sites around the city with his brother’s badge name and number – Turk 182, all without revealing his identity.
Hutton also falls for Urich’s case worker, Cattrall, who seconds that emotion. The film is punctuated with a certain gritty realism and overall humor with quirky, lovable and memorable characters, all very much working class New York. I’m especially fond of early tech adopter and Brooklyn Italian nerd, Steven Keats who plays Jockamo. There’s a scene in the middle of Act Two where Hutton tells Keats he’s the infamous and mysterious Turk 182 artist, who by this point in the film, has reached cult status. Keats’ reaction to the news is simply Oscar worthy.
As the Mayor’s top cop (Peter Boyle) gets closer to learning Turk 182’s true identity, he puts the squeeze on Urich who realizes his kid brother is responsible for this latent brotherly homage. In a televised showdown that pits Hutton against Boyle at the reopening of a major bridge rededicated by the Mayor, the entire city is spellbound by the unfolding drama. Cop Darren McGavin, on team Urich and Hutton, thwarts Boyle’s attempt to shoot Hutton down from the bridge. At this point, everyone, including the Mayor, wants Turk 182 to win. And that Hutton does, evading Boyle by going all Spiderman on him by rejiggering some lettering on the bridge that spells out Turk 182. You can beat City Hall.
The thing that saddens me is that with the exception of Hutton and Cattrall, most of the principal cast has passed. Robert Urich, Steven Keats, Robert Culp, Darren McGavin, Peter Boyle and director, Bob Clark – are all gone. But they sure gave me something to look forward to. I’m ordering this film on Amazon.
I’m smiling even now as I think about it.