Children of Bond - The Dirty Harry Series

Inspector Harry Callahan. Leather elbows on a tweed jacket, misanthropic sardonic disdain for the world (especially criminals of course), less than perfect relationship with his superiors ("Hey, Callahan, want me to print that in braille and shove it up your ass?"), attitude problem, prone to property damage, Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum - "The most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off!" Whether blowing up some terrorist hippies with a rocket launcher or foiling an armed bank robbery while still munching on his hot dog it's all in a day's work for "Dirty" Harry Callahan of the San Francisco Police Department.
The Dirty Harry series consists of five films ranging from 1971 to 1988. Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool. The first two films are very good and while the others are not so memorable the gruff charisma of Eastwood makes them all just about worth watching. These films are violent but very funny in places. The three pictures set in the funky seventies work best I think and the first one in particular was hugely influential, spawning a new genre and inspiring a slew of copycats. This is the closest we've had to a sort of American style Bond series I think and although the characters are very different on the face of it you pick up a surprising amount of influences from the Bond series when you watch these films. Some of the scenes in particular where Eastwood visits the weapons department in the police station are clearly inspired by Bond visiting Q.
1971's Dirty Harry was directed by Don Siegel and written by Harry Julian Fink, RM Fink, and Dean Reisner with additional input by John Milius. Milius is credited with coming up with some of the most famous and iconic dialogue flourishes including the most oft-quoted line of all during the bank robbery street sequence. This is the best film in the series and the one that feels the most downbeat and serious - the series (like Bond you might argue) becoming increasingly parodic and knowing as it went on. Dirty Harry is a violent and seminal police thriller with stylish direction and an eerie psychedelic jazz score by Lalo Schifrin that proves to be a great compliment to the extensive San Francisco locations. Lot of wonderful swooping helicopter shots in this film that not only show you the city but emphasise the lonesome image of Callahan as a man who stands apart and alone.
Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood obviously) is an Inspector with the San Francisco Police Homicide Department and has earned the soubriquet "Dirty" Harry for reasons that are never completely clarified but seem to be because he gets all the tasks no one else wants to do. "No wonder they call him Dirty Harry; he always gets the s*** end of the stick." The monosyllabic and sarcastic Callahan is considered to have what you could term anti-social and politically incorrect attitudes by his bosses and is known as a man who shoots first and worries about the consequences later. This is liberal hippy trippy San Francisco but Harry thinks that bureaucracy has got out of control and the courts are too soft on criminals and not thinking about the victims.
Callahan's unconventional (and brutal) methods and the ability of his exasperated bosses to control him are about to be put to the test though in severe fashion. A very nasty and oleaginous psychopathic serial killer known as Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) murders a young woman in a swimming pool using a high powered telescopic rifle from a rooftop and demands a huge ransom be paid or the city will suffer more murders. A vicious game of cat and mouse between Callahan and Scorpio unfolds with Harry often feeling like he is battling city red tape and legal procedures as much as he is the killer. "Where does it say you've got the right to kick down doors, torture suspects, deny medical attention and legal counsel?"
Dirty Harry is of course a role that Clint Eastwood was born to play but like many famous films it was all a fortuitous accident. The film was written with John Wayne in mind but he decided that Harry Callahan was the type of character he'd played far too often (a decision he later deeply regretted when he saw how successful the film was). Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman all turned the film down before Frank Sinatra was cast as Callahan but bailed out when he hurt his hand filming The Manchurian Candidate and decided he wanted to do something lighter anyway.
Warner Brothers then turned to laconic Spaghetti Western star Clint Eastwood and he agreed to take the role so long as his friend Don Siegel (with whom he'd just made The Beguiled) could direct and that the location of the film was switched from New York to San Francisco. Eastwood had no qualms about the controversial nature of the story and believed the film wasn't about the ambiguity of the legal system or the avocation of vigilantism but about a society that tolerates violence in the first place. Mitchum and Lancaster and a few others had considered the story to be rather distasteful so Eastwood wasn't exactly in the majority amongst his fellow actors when it came to the moral compass of the film.
Eastwood's casting and the addition of Siegel in the director's chair turned Dirty Harry into a different kind of film altogether. A sleek, modern (for 1971 anyway), ultra violent kinetic cops and robbers thriller with a moody, sometimes surreal atmosphere and a fantastic villain. "Hear me, you old hag, I'm telling you to drive or I'll decorate this bus with your brains!" snaps Scorpio to the meek driver of a school bus he's hijacked! You genuinely want Eastwood to blow him away long before the film ends.
Robinson (who was brilliant by the way much later as Garek in the television series Star Trek - Deep Space Nine) is the ultimate slimeball here. Just a really horrible and repellent villain who makes you want to take a bath each time he's onscreen. His performance is maybe a little over the top but he's great. The scenes between him and Eastwood as they build to their climactic showdown are compelling - especially a great bit at a football stadium where the lights come on and Siegel pans back (the big pan back seems to be a Siegel signature) to emphasise the gravity of Scorpio's situation - trapped in this deserted nowhere to hide location with the no nonsense Callahan.
The subtext here is that Harry and Scorpio are flip sides of one another. Both are renegades and misanthropic but Harry has a bit of a moral compass and Scorpio doesn't. Scorpio wants to kill everyone while Harry just wants to kill criminals. Eastwood is the ultimate alpha male here and draws on his strong but silent line of western heroes. You don't really learn anything about Harry aside from the fact that he was married once and his wife was killed. He's the mysterious loner cleaning up the town with methods as brutal as the criminals he is after. It's safe to say that a version of Dirty Harry with a very mature Frank Sinatra in the lead probably wouldn't have been an iconic film. It would have been diluted down and probably forgotten now.
I think the moment where Eastwood cements Callahan as an iconic character comes when he is having a hot dog for his lunch and becomes aware that a bank robbery is taking place across the street. He calls for back up but eventually decides he has to intervene, sauntering across the street with his Magnum, still eating his hot dog (!), and eventually getting to deliver one of the most famous speeches in cinema. "I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" Great bit where the gun fight result in a fire hydrant spewing water into the air as we pan back on a street scene. It's rather comic book and fun.
Although this film has the most grit and melancholia - not to mention lashings of sadism and violence - it is funny at times I think and not just because of Eastwood's little asides muttered under his breath. Shoot outs in supermarkets almost reach Naked Gun levels of preposterousness with the proximity of the adversaries to one another. I think the controversial nature of the film has dimmed with the passage of time and almost seems innocuous now. Part of the reason is the slew of Dirty Harry copycats that followed, picking up on the theme of the maverick policeman who plays by his own rules and doesn't have much time for legal niceties or his superiors. Dirty Harry still stacks up very well in the pantheon of Hollywood police thrillers and remains an entertaining and stylish film.

Magnum Force was directed by Ted (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) Post, written by John Milius and Michael Cimino and released in 1973. There were no plans whatsoever to make a sequel to Dirty Harry but the box office returns were very good and both Eastwood and the studio noticed that one of the most frequent questions they encountered was the one asking them when Harry Callahan was going to return to the cinema. A script entitled Vigilante (and based on some plot threads that were unused in the Dirty Harry screenplay) eventually became Magnum Force (gun nut John Milius is credited with the change of title) and the resulting film was successful enough in both critical and box office terms to ensure Harry Callahan would definitely be back again in the future for a third adventure.
Dirty Harry director Don Siegel was unavailable for Magnum Force and although Ted Post (who directed Eastwood in Hang 'Em High) is less inventive than his predecessor he does a decent job and the film looks sleek with Frank Stanley's Panavision-Technicolor lens. This is the best of the four sequels to Dirty Harry and a satisfying and enjoyable thriller in its own right. Some of the grittiness (I hate that word) and political incorrectness of the first picture is washed away here and the central conceit is a clever one. Callahan veered close to being a vigilante in the first film so here they have him faced with a real group of apparently well connected and organised vigilantes who are wreaking havoc by murdering the criminal classes in San Francisco.
One would expect Harry Callahan to have some sympathy with this development and not lose too much sleep over a few gang bosses and murderers being wiped out but he becomes the lone crusader for the law and has to defend the system rather than fight it. As he reasons, until something better comes along he has no choice but to defend the establishment. He has to play by the rules this time and go after those who don't - the exact thing he has always been accused of. It's a decent twist and seems like a reaction to those who felt the character came off as too right wing and morally dubious in the first film.
The film starts with a fantastic Bond inspired gun fetish title sequence that reprises Harry's famous amusing gambit to the stricken bank robber in the first film. It soon transpires that San Francisco is in the grip of a series of killings that threaten to put the courts out of business. These are not the random killings of a serial killer though but of the criminal fraternity. The victims are being chosen very carefully. Mob bosses, even a pimp who killed one of his prostitutes. The faceless killer we see at the start is dressed as a motorcycle policeman and incredibly ruthless. These scenes are nicely done.
Harry (no explanation for why he's got his job back after disobeying orders and resigning at the end of the last film!) and new partner Early Smith (Felton Perry) visit one of the crime scenes but have trouble with their boss Lt Briggs (Hal Holbrook). Briggs absolutely loathes Callahan and his methods and tries to keep him off the case. Our laconic hero nevertheless soon becomes drawn into the investigation and realises that the vigilante movement is much bigger and much more dangerous than he had ever suspected. Magnum Force gives Eastwood another great catchphrase ("A man has to know his limitations...") and is a very solid and entertaining sequel on the whole. It's a difficult film to review without giving everything away although you'll spot the twist and the real villains very early on I would imagine.
There is a bit more levity in this one and an acknowledgment of Dirty Harry as a character who has become a cinematic icon already. I love the bit where Harry responds to an airplane hijacking by walking out pretending to be the pilot they requested and proceeds to judderingly career the plane around the tarmac before dealing out some, er, Magnum justice to the hijackers. "Excuse me, Captain. This may seem silly but can you fly?" asks the bemused co-pilot. "Nope. Never had a lesson," replies Eastwood. This is a funny sequence and if you take out the bloody gun fight at the end is the sort of thing that Roger Moore would do in one of his Bond films. Already the series is starting to become a slight parody of itself but it's part of the fun I suppose.
They soften the Eastwood character just a little and make him less aloof at times. He even has a vague romantic interest in the form of his neighbour Sunny (Adele Yoshioka). Eastwood owns the role by now and is believably imposing and tough punching lights out and shooting people. The extended climax where Callahan is being hunted (another reversal of the first film) seems rather cliched now because we've had the old shoot out/game of cat and mouse in an abandoned factory or docks a billion times in subsequent police thrillers but it is nicely done here and develops a decent amount of tension even if you are always aware that they aren't going to kill Clint Eastwood. Not when there is another Dirty Harry film to be made.
There is a good cast for this one. Mitchell Ryan is excellent as Charlie McCoy, an embittered and washed up motorcycle policeman and friend who Callahan suspects might be involved in the vigilante killings. There are a host of famous faces you'll probably recognise too in the police department. David Soul, Tim Matheson and Robert Urich as rookie police officers who impress Callahan with their prowess on the shooting range (good set piece later where Harry competes in the western style police shooting championship) and all stick together. David Soul was actually cast in Starsky and Hutch on the back of Magnum Force when a television producer saw him in the film.
Best of all is Hal Holbrook as Callahan's boss Briggs - whom he is forced to work under by the Captain. "Look, you work with Briggs on this, Callahan. But if you ever lean out of line, so help me lord, I'll flop you low in whale s***." Holbrook is a really good actor and his sparring with Eastwood is always entertaining. Briggs is sardonic and a constant thorn to the investigation as far as our hero is concerned. This is the longest of the Dirty Harry films and goes on for over two hours but it never feels as if it is unduly dragging while you are watching it. I like Magnum Force and think this is a good sequel. Not as stylish as the first film but certainly good old fashioned violent fun.

While Magnum Force was probably as good as a sequel to Dirty Harry had any right to be the series was never quite as strong thereafter and got as far as it did coasting on the grumpy charisma of its famous leading man. The Enforcer was released in 1976 and while it has its moments it often feels like a pale imitation and blending of the first two films. It reminds me of Jaws 2 in many ways. A decent enough film but like a pale Karaoke version of what came before. Something is always missing. Eastwood had intended to direct the third Dirty Harry film himself but when he replaced Phillip Kaufman on The Outlaw Josey Wales he didn't have sufficient time and gave the job to his assistant director James Fargo. The Enforcer looks ok but simply lacks the polish and flair of the first two pictures.
One can detect the hand of Eastwood from behind the camera at points (it is believed that he directed some bits of the The Enforcer and a few years before had actually directed the rooftop jumper scene in Dirty Harry when Siegel was ill that day) but the film seems to lack energy at times and is saddled with a weak and fairly ludicrous story that is credited to Stirling Silliphant and Dean Reisner (who were apparently working from a premise given to Eastwood by two young screenwriters who were big Dirty Harry fans).
The Enforcer begins with what by now has become almost a comic staple of the films. Callahan annoying his boss by foiling some sort of criminal scheme (he stumbles into by accident) in violent cartoon Frank Drebin fashion. When a hostage situation arises at a liquor store and the crooks demand a vehicle, Harry obliges and drives his car straight through the glass before shooting everyone. "You took out two front doors, one front window, 12 feet of counter, plus damages to the stock, plus one city vehicle totaled, not to mention three hostages in the hospital, all of whom will probably sue the city!" booms his new boss Captain Jerome McKay (Bradford Dillman). "For your information, Callahan, the minority community has just about had it with this kind of police work." Our hero is none too pleased to hear he is being transferred from Homicide to Personnel. "Personnel? That's for assholes!" The relationship between Harry and his bosses is sort of becoming like Inspector Clouseau and Chief Dreyfuss from the Pink Panther films by this stage.
Anyway, Harry's unorthodox but effective methods are required again when a terrorist group known as the People's Revolutionary Strike Force (PRSF) suddenly rear their head and start causing trouble. As if that wasn't bad enough they appear to be hippies. Hippy terrorists! They are led by Bobby Maxwell (DeVeren Bookwalter) - a man who looks more like a drug addled surfer than a militant leader - and kill two gas men and assume their identities for financial gain. Killing two gas men isn't exactly Ernst Stavro Blofeld on the mountain peak of villainy but they have much bigger plans involving the kidnapping of the Mayor and the theft of heavy weapons including M72 LAW rockets.
You can probably guess that it will be up to Harry to stop them but he has another partner to deal with now as they all keep being killed. If you want a long life then you should avoid becoming Harry Callahan's partner at all costs. It's like people who marry Charles Bronson in the Death Wish films. You are toast. Because of an affirmative action programme at the police department Harry is none too pleased to learn that his new partner is rookie Kate Moore (Tyne Daly). Female police officers. I ask you. What is the world coming to? They'll want the vote next. It won't come as a huge surprise though to learn that Kate gradually begins to win the respect of our sexist hero and there is a little fission of attraction too. It will be up to Harry and Kate to somehow put a spanner in the best laid plans of these hippy rascals.
The sliding scale of political correctness has retracted somewhat with The Enforcer on about eight million levels. The Enforcer is certainly watchable and probably better than the two eighties entries in the series (somehow Harry Callahan just works better as a piece of seventies memorabilia) but it does have some salient weaknesses. The supporting cast is largely unmemorable and DeVeren Bookwalter hams it up to no great effect as the villain. Although they do some nasty stuff the People's Revolutionary Strike Force always seem very cardboard and cartoonish and don't linger in the memory for very long after you've seen the film. My abiding memory of The Enforcer is the fact that Harry Callahan uses a rocket launcher at the end. That's worth the price of admission alone!
The big saving grace of the cast and perhaps even the film is Tyne Daly as Harry's new female partner. Daly later became famous for her part in the police series Cagney & Lacey and she's really good here. Scared and eager to impress but tough and a character you believe in. Daly is a good actress. If they made a film like this now Kate Moore would be played by some blonde teenage bimbo from Riverdale or something but Daly feels like a real person.
This is one of the shortest of the Dirty Harry films despite the fact that some chase sequences seem to go on for an awfully long time. One of these in particular is pretty good. A pounding foot chase that makes good use of the (ahem) streets of San Francisco. The moment though where a chase and punch up ends up disrupting what appears to be the set of an adult film is a bit strange. Substitute them for something else and Clint could be Roger Moore in a Bond film again. You sense here that someone (and by someone I obviously mean Clint Eastwood) decided to make the film leaner in the editing room and up the action quotient at the expense of exposition and too much talky stuff. It works at times but The Enforcer ultimately feels like a relatively entertaining but hollow film compared to the first two. So you get some action sections that go on too long and no real subtext or depth to the picture.
The hippy terrorist group are never really explained or developed much. Who are they fighting for? Do they want political change or money? We are never completely sure. One other thing that is noticeable is that Lalo Schifrin has been replaced by Jerry Fielding (for one film only though) and the jazzy music isn't quite the same. Eastwood seems a bit bored in this one but always has gruff charisma to spare. This is worth sticking through though for him, Tyne Daly and the climax in the dilapidated ruins on Alcatraz Island. The Enforcer is not bad but feels a trifle lightweight and uninspired after the first two. One quibble I do have with The Enforcer resides in the catchphrase department. This is the only film that doesn't give him a classic new one. All he does is utter "marvelous" under his breath a lot!

The Enforcer was always intended to be the last film in the Dirty Harry series and it seemed like a decent idea to leave our shoot first worry about questions later hero in the seventies as part of a trilogy. However, when 53 year-old Sean Connery made an unexpected return to the role of James Bond in the renegade 007 film Never Say Never Again, Warner Brothers conducted a poll to ask cinema goers which other famous characters they would like to see resurrected again. The response indicated that the public were very keen on seeing Clint Eastwood play Harry Callahan once more so, seven years after The Enforcer, Dirty Harry was at it again in 1983's Sudden Impact.
The film (written by Joseph Stinson) is the only Dirty Harry entry to be directed by Eastwood himself and he makes it much more film noir with flashbacks and shadows constantly looming on walls and night locations. The story actually seems to do a 180 degree spin on the events of Magnum Force where Callahan condemned organised vigilantism and had to fight against it. Here, he seems to have no problem with taking the law into his own hands and murder so long as the targets are complete scumbags. Morally it's a murky story and an unpleasant one too at times but tempered by plenty of humour and tongue-in-cheek action. The film begins by showing us the vigilante/murderer Columbo style straight away. There is no great mystery to unravel. Jennifer Spencer (Sandra Locke) is an artist who - along with her sister - was brutally raped ten years ago by a group of men (and one lesbian). Her sister never recovered and is now catatonic.
Spencer has begun killing the perpetrators one by one using the same method of shooting. As the police investigation gathers pace, she moves to the quiet beach town of San Paulo to lay low and restore the boardwalk's historic carousel (where the rape took place). Meanwhile, Inspector Harry Callahan is up to his usual antics. He foils a robbery at a diner in his usual fashion ("Go ahead, make my day!") and gatecrashes a family wedding party and causes a crime boss to have a heart attack when he accuses him of murder. As ever, Harry's boss - Lt Donnelly (Michael Currie) - is not too impressed. "What in God's name were you doing at that restaurant last night? Harassing the suspects again? Giving someone a heart attack? Harry, as of right now you are going to take a vacation. That's final!"
Although he apparently never takes holidays, Harry is ordered to disappear and go and cool off somewhere. He winds up in San Paulo (how convenient!) where he strikes up a friendship/romance with Jennifer Spencer but soon begins to notice that murders there match of the modus operandi (".38 caliber vasectomy") of the San Francisco case. Oh, and hired goons connected to the crime boss he made have a heart attack are constantly out to kill him!
Eastwood was knocking on a bit by now but is still a commanding presence as Dirty Harry and slips back into the character fairly easily. We quickly gather he's still the same old Harry Callahan when he is left seething at what he perceives to be another yoghurt knitting court decision at the start of the film and lets the recipient of this legal generosity know exactly how he feels. "Listen, punk. To me you're nothin' but dogs***, you understand? And a lot of things can happen to dogs***. It can be scraped up with a shovel off the ground. It can dry up and blow away in the wind. Or it can be stepped on and squashed. So take my advice and be careful!"
The character actually seems more right wing than ever here after his establishment heroics in the second film and flickers of humanity in the third. The actual killing vignettes of the murderess are shot in stark fashion and quite unpleasant, even slightly unsettling. This is the closest the series comes to Death Wish territory and asks the question of what Harry Callahan would do if he encountered a Charles Bronson (as Paul Kersey) type vigilante.
The answer here is that he would have sympathy - despite the fact that in Magnum Force he wasn't prepared to stand by and let crime bosses and such like be murdered by vigilante activity. I suppose one could argue that some innocent victims did or could get caught up in the fray in Magnum Force. While I found elements of Sudden Impact distasteful it is generally an entertaining picture if a trifle pretentious at times in the manner that Eastwood shoots the film. The seventies grittiness has since evaporated and this is more generic than earlier films. An action mystery caper that just happens to have Clint Eastwood walking around dispensing sarcastic quips and blowing people away at the centre of it all.
The violence of the series continues but there are some moments of levity that are probably needed I think - although they do veer into parody. Harry commandeers a tour bus full of pensioners to chase a bank robber. You couldn't imagine a comic scene like this in the first film. Or him being saddled with a pet bulldog. Harry constantly fending off the attempts by the goons connected to the crime boss to kill him sometimes smack of Carrie Fisher trying to kill John Belushi in The Blues Brothers but they are fun and supply some good action sequences.
Eastwood dealing with the punks in the diner at the start though is classic Harry Callahan. "Every day for the past ten years, Loretta here's been giving me a large black coffee - except today she gives me a large black coffee and it has sugar in it. A lotta sugar. I just came back to complain..." Sandra Locke is pretty bland as the female lead though and clearly only got the part because she was living with Eastwood (she was in most of his films in this era).
I suppose one of the interesting things about the film is the way it moves the action (for the most part) away from San Francisco in an attempt to do something new. It works relatively well and Harry still has an authority figure to lock horns with in the form of Pat Hingle's local Police Chief Lester Jannings - a man in no mood to let some big city hot shot come in and start meddling in San Paulo police business. You will probably spot some of the twists in the film coming a mile off but there is just enough wit in the script and enough violent Dirty Harry action to make this worth your time if you've watched the other films. Sudden Impact is not an especially good film but it has its moments.

Last and least, we have 1988's The Dead Pool, by far the most superficial, insubstantial, generic and unnecessary film in the series but just about worth watching for Eastwood alone. He's in his sixties by now but still has attitude. "**** with me, buddy, I'll kick your ass so hard you'll have to unbutton your collar to s***!" Eastwood handed over the director's chair to his friend and former stunt double Buddy Van Horn so you get the impression he wasn't taking this one very seriously and was maybe doing one last Harry Callahan caper as a favour to the studio to get some more cherished and uncommercial projects green lit. Buddy Van Horn was best known for directing Eastwood in the comedy Any Which Way You Can (the one with the orangutan) so he wasn't exactly Steven Spielberg.
The story (by someone named Steve Sharon) is pretty silly and jarringly brings the character firmly into the eighties. There is no controversial political subtext to this entry and it merely unfolds as a fairly run of the mill thriller/action film that with one or two tweaks probably could have been fashioned into a Chuck Norris vehicle. The film starts with Harry now something of a celebrity after putting away crime boss Lou Janero (Anthony Charnota) and ending up on the cover of the city magazine. Just as in Sudden Impact, the mobster's men seek to extract revenge by trying to kill him. Hey, come up with a few new plot threads!
Harry and his new partner, the kung fu kicking martial arts expert Al Quan (Evan C Kim), are assigned an unusual case. A rock star named Johnny Squares (played wih a large dose of ham by a young Jim Carrey billed as James Carrey) has been found dead in his trailer during the production of a horror film directed by Peter Swan (Liam Neeson). When a producer of the film is later killed, Harry discovers that he and Swan were playing a game known as the Dead Pool which involves guessing which celebrities will die next. Squares and Callahan himself are on the Dead Pool list and when more people start being killed it becomes obvious that someone is taking this game very seriously.
This is a strange entry in the series and by far the shortest film. It is almost sending itself up by this point but I suppose the Dirty Harry character and series had been lampooned and mimicked so many times by now there wasn't much else to do. By now a new generation of action stars led by Arnold Schwarzenegger had long since supplanted Eastwood as Hollywood's premier tough man but he shows here that a steely glare is just as effective as muscles. Harry seems a tad more benign though in his dealings with his superiors and it almost seems as if they have started to appreciate him at last. His boss Captain Donnelly (Michael Currie) though is still not completely happy with his James Bond penchant for property damage. "13,453 dollars and 63 cents. That's how much an unmarked squad car costs this department. That's the third goddamned car you trashed this month!"
After smashing a press camera, Harry has to talk to journalist Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson) to balance the investigation and a romance develops. The character is more human here again although he does of course still swear a lot and shoot people. Catchphrases are a bit thin on the ground here ("You're s*** out of luck" isn't the greatest) but I did like Harry visiting Janero in prison and telling him that if he doesn't call the goon squad off then he'll get the prison's most notorious nutcase to "cancel his ass like a stamp". What a wonderful turn of phrase! Patricia Clarkson is probably needed here as the acting from the supporting cast isn't great. Liam Neeson is positively awful with a dreadful English accent and "James" Carrey isn't much better, not that he's in the film for long.
Eastwood gets a few good lines ("Maybe I'll start my own dead pool, and put you on it...") in his scenes with Neeson but the screenplay is fairly ordinary and never feels like a great fit for the character. Evan C Kim is Jackie Chan-lite as Harry's new partner and seems like a contrived attempt to give the film more modern appeal and be more down with the kids of 1988. The rock music (Guns and Roses make a cameo) and horror film trappings (some might enjoy the horror angle as a change I suppose) are incredibly dated now and it seems somewhat incongruous to see such an icon of the seventies walking around in this pop video environment.
The direction by Buddy Van Horn is very run of the mill and this easily the least interesting of the five films to look at. The most memorable sequence in the film is certainly the car chase where Harry careers his Oldsmobile 98 squad car around the bumpy hilled roads and streets of San Francisco pursued by remote control toy car that has a bomb strapped to it! This is a preposterous sequence that owes a lot to Steve McQueen's Bullitt but it is fun.
The Dead Pool is an average police thriller that often seems indistinguishable from other Eastwood action films around this time (The Rookie etc) and definitely lacks the Harry Callahan residue of the first three films (and even Sudden Impact). It's sort of fun though in a comic book way at times and Eastwood's grizzled last turn as his most famous character is not bad at all. He's sort of like Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again here. The two films aren't exactly brilliant but it was nice all the same to see Eastwood and Connery in their most famous roles one last time.
- Jake

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