Toward the beginning of "Turk 182!", Terry the fireman (Robert Urich) brays, "Gimme annudda beeah, Hoolie." Audiences should understand that this is their cue to leave the theater. In the movie's condescending populism, The People are enshrined, The System is scorned. And The People say: phooey.
Terry gets annudda beeah, and he also gets word that a nearby building has caught fire. Rummaging through the smoke and flames for a trapped child, he's caught by the blast of a firehose, which propels him out the window. The fall disables him, but the city denies him a pension -- he was intoxicated and, according to regulations, ineligible. When protests to the appropriate agencies avail nothing, his kid brother, Jimmy (Timothy Hutton), shouts out his plight to Hizzoner himself (a gleefully corrupt Robert Culp), which doesn't work, either.
Mayor Tyler is involved in a scandal involving one of his aides, one Zimmerman, who ran off to Brazil with a satchelful of graft; the headlines scream, "Zimmerman Flew, Tyler Knew," so Jimmy lights on the idea of using the headline to get even. He spray-paints it on a supposedly grafitti-proof subway car, on buses and the rocks in Central Park; he even sneaks it onto the scoreboard during a half-time political rally at which the mayor appears. This clever sabotage is accompanied by a signature -- "Turk 182" -- drawn from his brother's nickname ("They called him 'Turk' because he was a young turk") and old badge number.
The pleasure of the movie should come from how Jimmy gets away with it, but director Bob Clark, as crude here as always, rarely reveals the mechanics of his pranks -- you're just supposed to take them on faith. Instead, there's a lot of Terry's "snappy" badinage and blubbering monologues of self-pity, delivered by a Urich who chews the scenery so thoroughly that Peter Boyle, who gives the worst performance of his career as the mayor's chief of security, can barely find a corner of it for himself. And Hutton indulges the excesses of Method acting like there's no tomorrow; another shtick like this, and maybe there won't be.
Of course, by the end, everyone cheers the cause, from the boys in the power stations (who refuse to turn off the lights on Jimmy's last effort) to the boys in the bar to the mayor himself. At one point, Jimmy says, "I'm not in politics," and he's not -- the appeal of "Turk 182!" is purely emotional, a cri de coeur for the Little Person inside all of us, exploited by sleazy politicos and the bureaucracy and the press. Jimmy claims that he did it because "I wanted everyone to know that Terry mattered," but he doesn't matter to these filmmakers -- he's just a symbol to be pandered to. Turk 182!, playing at area theaters, is rated PG-13, and contains some mild profanity, violence and sexual situations.