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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.14%
Worth A Look: 32.14%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 22 user ratings

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Sudden Impact
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by MP Bartley

"Sleazy Harry."
3 stars

The previous entry into the Dirty Harry canon, The Enforcer, had signalled a massive drop in quality from the first two and while it's too much to say that Eastwood stepping behind the camera for the fourth signalled a creative rebirth for the San Francisco icon, it's murky enough to earn your attention at least once. There's something nasty in the bay waters yet again.

Harry is coming under personal attacks by gang members riled at his constant success rate of arresting or blowing away fellow criminal associates, so for his own safety his bosses relocate him out of the city and to a small coastal town. However, this town is also home to Jennifer (Sandra Locke), an artist and rape victim who is slowly making her way through the gang with bloody retribution on her mind - a task that puts her on collision course with Harry.

The first plot strand of Sudden Impact which deals with Harry and the gangs coming after him, is fairly standard stuff for our protagonist. Eastwood as director directs these action scenes nimbly enough, as Harry becomes ever more Bond-like, despatching adversaries in increasingly outlandish ways, snarling his way through a one-liner as he does it. It is this film that gives birth to his second-most famous line of dialogue - "Go ahead. Make my day." - and it's credit to Eastwood as actor that Harry still feels fresh and not a parody and credit to Eastwood as director that he understands where the wit lies in Harry as a character. Anything that does not involve blasting away at bad guys is a mere irritant to Harry, and there's a nicely judged scene where Harry is blissfully unaware of his coffee cup being filled to the brim with sugar by a waitress desperate to catch his attention.

The second strand, however, of Jennifer's revenge, is at once both the most flawed and most interesting of the film. What's interesting is that it almost serves as a dry run for one of Clint's later masterpieces. A gang of men have beaten up and abused a defenceless woman so Clint comes riding to the rescue, even when it involves stepping outside of the law - sound familiar? Hell, Harry even gets an ethnic sidekick here that comes to a violent end. This isn't to suggest that Sudden Impact is a forgotten masterpiece, though. It's perhaps more likely that the similarities are co-incidental, but still, it's interesting to muse that already Clint is exploring themes and tropes that would form a substantial part of his further work.

But it is also the part of the film that is an interesting mess. A flashback to the rape scene delves nastily into exploitation cinema; the rapists reduced to cartoonish, gibbering goblins. There is no deftness of approach here, merely a director struggling to find his voice and sensitive touch in uncouth and ugly material. The gang of rapists are appalling stereotypes and appallingly acted, too (although no-one is as bad as Locke, who is apocalyptically awful here). Their language is salty, their delivery screechy; every expletive sneered out as if it's the first time they've ever said such a word. It does give the film a lurid and bluntly effective edge, but you can sense Eastwood struggling with it. He knows the brilliance of the first film was in the wit and satire of it, but this is a film rooted among the filth and the trash and as a director it drowns out what he wants to do with the character and the story.

Instead, there are scenes that show Eastwood's developing cinematic eye - Harry's midnight arrival at an empty fairground has him framed like a cowboy in a showdown - but the one moment where his direction really breathes is the final five minutes. I won't give it away for those who haven't seen it, but it raises question of justice and revenge and is the only moment that really tallies with the moral questions and ethical positions that the first two films posed. It's an interesting point to end the film on, but Eastwood's ineffectiveness at handling everything preceeding blunts its effectiveness somewhat.

Sudden Impact is a shrieking mess, eager to prove its adult nature by showing the brutal nature of the world it exists in. Harry's last outing, The Dead Pool, would be a far more civlised and fun finale for Harry, if a little tame. But while Sudden Impact is far from the greatness that the series was once, it is an interesting look at the direction that both character and director were taking.

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originally posted: 10/02/10 22:49:17
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User Comments

11/10/10 Steve Benkin meh! 3 stars
10/29/10 Debra DeLeone A classic Dirty Harry film: fantastic for any collection. 5 stars
10/06/10 JP Ward A watered down Ms. 45 with a superfluous Harry Callahan. 2 stars
10/06/10 Mal O A typical Clint movie you get what you expect. 3 stars
1/26/09 Pamela White Clint at his best 4 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike one of the top 3 Harrys 4 stars
2/28/05 steve newman not that good 2 stars
3/23/04 KGB Rapists... God how i hate them, god bless 'Dirty' Harry Callahan 5 stars
2/17/04 john Eastwood is phenomenal as always - the movie is nothing special 3 stars
12/25/03 Sugarfoot That Sondra Locke chick really bugs me! 2 stars
9/30/03 Shane Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another great "Dirty" Harry Callahan film...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
7/04/03 Sam Moszynski Second best film in the series, next to the original 4 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Someone pistol whip Locke 2 stars
9/12/02 y2mckay Decent "Dirty Harry" flick - not as good as the first, but much better than the last. 4 stars
1/20/02 David A. After the dog farts in eastwood's face it's pretty much down hill. Stupid. 2 stars
12/10/01 R.W. Welch Runaway nihilism. A bit over the top but seldom dull. 4 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Better than "The Enforcer." It's a good revenge movie along with being a good cop flick. 4 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla it wasn't that good, but it was ok, i'll give you that!!!! 3 stars
5/19/00 tank Easily the best of the Dirty Harry (1971) sequels and damn good (& nasty) in its own right 4 stars
10/18/99 Weird Andy Locke did/does indeed stink, but a first rate actioner nonetheless. 4 stars
12/04/98 Lord Of The Dunce The power of the pussy get's another acting role for Sandra Locke. Hackette. 2 stars
12/01/98 Silent Rob For all the attention this flick got, it pretty much blows! 2 stars
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  02-Jul-1983 (R)


  02-Feb-1984 (M)

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