What’s the Real New York Movie of the Eighties?


This morning on the Times's City Room blog, Jenny 8 made a list of New York City movies that best exemplified their decade, with Michael Clayton claiming the title for the aughts. She invited readers to suggest their own favorite New York films, and more than 300 comments later new titles are still popping up. But conspicuously absent from the list is that excellent New York eighties movie crossover, 1985’s Turk 182!. Robert Urich plays an Irish firefighter who is denied health coverage after sustaining an injury for rescuing a baby off-duty. Timothy Hutton (who prepared for this role by playing Conrad in Ordinary People) is Urich’s enraged younger brother, who uses graffiti as a means to call attention to a corrupt mayor in a city with no universal health care. Hutton spray-paints attacks against the mayor on subway cars and, most memorably, the 59th Street Bridge, signing them all “Turk 182!” The tabloids freak, wondering who this “Turk 182” guy is. Not even Robert Urich can figure it out at first, and his nickname is Turk and his badge number is 182. The above YouTube clip, the only one we could find, is composed only of shots of Urich in a body cast, apparently put together by some cast fetishist who uploads under the name "castmovies."

The best part of Turk 182! is its writer, Denis Hamill. Hamill, a columnist for the Daily News, is the brother of the better-known (and -regarded) writer Pete Hamill. Denis Hamill has had a respectable newspaper career in his own right, but he will always be Pete Hamill’s brother. So he writes a movie in which, for once, the overlooked little brother saves the day. Hamill even remembered to put his favorite New York characters in too, including Paul Sorvino, WABC’s Bill Beutel, and a pre-Giuliani Donna Hanover all playing themselves. Turk 182! is not a good movie, but it is representative of the city. Watching it, you suspend disbelief, overlook lapses of logic, and surrender to the general absurdity. And that’s exactly what we do every day in New York. —Aileen Gallagher

We Love This Dirty Town (on Film) [City Room/NYT]