- Movie Rating -

Turk 182! (1985)

| February 15, 1985

Turk 182! is one of those man-against-the-establishment movies that could only possibly work if the man and those within the establishment were totally brain dead.  It’s about an ordinary guy played by Timothy Hutton whose rage against the unfeeling and uncaring government of New York City leads him on crusade to embarrass the mayor by becoming a graffiti artist who plasters “Turk 182!” all over the city.  Nobody knows who is committing these acts of vandalism despite the fact that Hutton’s brother’s nickname is Turk and his firefighter badge number is 182.  Amazingly, even the brother can’t put it together.

Timothy Hutton, a ridiculously talented actor, wastes his time in this story playing Jimmy the kid brother of Terry (Robert Urich) a New York City firefighter who saves a baby from a fire one night and is injured.  But because Terry was off-duty, the city won’t pay for his medical expenses.  Of course, anyone with a heartbeat would realize that this situation is unfair and probably unconstitutional.  Jimmy thinks so, and so does Terry, but the mayor himself doesn’t think so.  When Hutton confronts him with the problem, the mayor (Robert Kulp) is only appalled that the brother was drinking at the time.  He dismisses Terry as a drunk who doesn’t deserve respect.  Why?  Why would the mayor act like this, especially at a press conference?  What public official would commit career suicide by being so unfeeling toward a firefighter?

When I saw that scene, the movie broke faith with me.  I knew that this movie wasn’t playing to any kind of reality, it wasn’t playing to any kind of logic.  It was playing to a kind of elementary school storytelling where the small details don’t matter as long as the overarching story reaches its conclusion.

Anyway, Jimmy is reasonably angry and begins a covert campaign to embarrass the mayor by painting ‘Turk 182’ on subway cars, on monuments and on bridges.  No one knows who did it, but somehow they’re all intrigued.  Why?  I don’t really know.  If I saw ‘Turk 182’ spray painted on the side of a bus, I might be inclined to think it was some gang thing.  What’s a Turk 182?  Why didn’t Jimmy just paint clearer messages: “The Mayor Doesn’t Care” or at least “Unfair.”  Something.

The problem with Turk 182 is that everyone in Jimmy’s immediate circle should immediately know who it is referring to and who is doing the painting.  Amazingly, even Terry doesn’t know, despite the fact that Turk is his nickname and 182 is his firefighter badge number!  Everyone knows it’s not the brother – he’s laid up in the hospital with a cast that is almost a parody and, for no real reason, tries to kill himself.  Why?  Even dramatically that doesn’t work.

The movie climaxes on the Queensboro Bridge, which is about to be reopened at a ceremony after a refit.  Jimmy rigs the electrical sign to flash “Turk 182!” despite the police that have been guarding the place all day, but not so much that they missed the fact that Jimmy was hauling up enough grease with him to grease all of the lower girders.

Turk 182! Is a profoundly stupid movie, loaded with stupid characters who do stupid things only so their can be a movie.  The idea is here.  There is room for a story about the mistreatment of Firefighters.  There’s room for a story about how the political machine doesn’t look out for the little guy.  This isn’t it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama