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Dirty Harry

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 09/17/02 09:27:18

"Piss and vinegar and guns and psychopaths and Dirty Harry."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

“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?”

If you’ve seen a movie in the last forty years, you’ve undoubtedly heard those lines before. The reason is that the movie they came from, Dirty Harry not only launched the already strong career of Clint Eastwood into the stratosphere, but it also scored humungous box office and saw the rise of one of moviedom’s finest and ickiest psychopaths – Scorpio.

Harry Callahan (Eastwood) is a San Francisco cop who does things the easy way – she shoots first and asks questions… well, never. So when a sniper starts killing random people around SF, Harry is called in to eliminate the threat, but the killer isn’t an easy catch, especially when the DA is more worried about due process than saving lives.

Like any film from the early 70’s, Dirty Harry really doesn’t ‘look’ very good. The clothes are awful, the music likewise, and much of the acting comes right out of the Freddie Prinze Jr textbook, “How to be Called an Actor Without Ever Moving a Facial Muscle or Inflecting Tone in Your Voice." But that doesn’t really matter, because just as with any early 70’s Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen of Yul Brynner film, the result is the point, not the method used to get there. This is a film about bad, bad, bad guys and good guys who kick ass and don’t take names. Harry acts the way we all wish our cops could act, if they didn’t have that pesky Constitution to worry about. He gets his man without fuss, even though the whole world is against him. The people dig Harry and audiences flocked.

Of course, any good action movie of the 70’s had an abundance of beaver as a side attraction and Dirty Harry is no exception to the rule. While the flesh is brief, it’s certainly there in the guide of a dead corpse who would go onto be better known as ‘Hotzie Totzie’ in Welcome Back Kotter.

Eastwood isn’t particularly noteworthy in the lead role, he basically does what the script says, winces now and then and fires his gun convincingly, but what more do you want when a damn pyscho killer is out there? You don’t want a Timothy Dalton, you want a Clint when the chips are down.

Worthy of big time praise for his performance in this film is Andrew Robinson, who plays the killer, Scorpio. He’s so damn irksome and brazen that you just want to kick the heck out of the squirmy little bastard, so much so that since the film Robinson has received death threats and has an unlisted phone number to this day.

The precursor to many sequels, Dirty Harry isn’t exactly fine filmmaking, but it’s a film that has become an indelible part of the American cinema landscape. Catch it on cable sometime - a fine time will be had by all.

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