Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Magnum Force

Cinema Monolith: 7/10 The Monolith
IMDb: 7.2/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on December 25, 1973
Rated R
124 minutes

Directed by Ted Post

Written by John Milius and Michael Cimino

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich, Kip Niven, Felton Perry, John Mitchum, Adele Yoshioka, Robert Trebor, Albert Popwell, Suzanne Somers

Somebody is killing off the mobsters, drug lords, and all-around scumbags of San Francisco, and it’s up to SFPD investigator Harry Callahan to figure out who, and how best to stop them. At first he believes it’s a fellow cop, a friend who’s fed up with criminals being acquitted and set free on technicalities, but he soon begins to wonder about those four rookies with marksmanship skills who work as traffic cops, just like his friend did. When Harry does some investigating of his own, he discovers who the true culprits are, and is given an ultimatum: either he’s for them, or against them.

Clint Eastwood returns for his second go-around as San Francisco homicide detective ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan in this first sequel to the hit crime thriller Dirty Harry, which was the longest—with a run time of 124 minutes—of the five Dirty Harry films, and the one rated second-best of the five by most fans. Prolific television helmer Ted Post took over the directorial reigns from Siegel, who’d done so well directing Dirty Harry, but either didn’t like the script or was busy filming Charley Varrick, or maybe both, and chose not to take part in the making of this one.

And I must say, after watching Dirty Harry and Magnum Force on consecutive nights, I could tell right from the get-go that Siegel would’ve done a much better job of directing this second film than Post. There was a certain flavor and style missing from Post’s camerawork and framing, and although his work on the film was decent enough, he just didn’t possess Siegel’s camera skills and visual sense. The screenplay seemed to be missing some flavor, too, and though the basis for the story was a good one, it was the details and snappy dialogue that were lacking, and missed. It’s too bad the screenwriters from the first film weren’t involved with this one as well.

Granted, I’m not saying Magnum Force was all bad. Eastwood was still Callahan, and was still as tough and fun to watch as before, and I thought David Soul, Robert Urich, and Tim Matheson (okay, and Kip Niven) were quite good—and innocently menacing—as the rookie cops; they made Callahan’s type of rule-breaking seem downright tame in comparison. And the filmmakers were kind enough to offer some carryover continuity, which I always like, using John Mitchum again in the role of Harry’s squad room pal DiGiorgio, and having Callahan mention his former partner Chico, who’d been shot up and hospitalized in the previous film.

Magnum Force was a good idea whose execution was just a bit off; I liked the premise of a ‘death squad’ of vigilante cops within the system, who mete out their own brand of justice, but it felt like everything—such as the amped-up violence, gratuitous nudity, and amount of trademark Callahan ‘crime in progress’ scenes—was just a tad too much. Though not as skillfully rendered as its predecessor, it still made for an entertaining two hours, especially if you’re an Eastwood fan, and enjoy watching Eastwood play Callahan with all his bad-ass character attributes and wry comments intact.  (7/10)

4 comments on “Magnum Force

  1. There’s a definite slant towards comic book violence when compared to the first film. It’s no where near as gritty or filthy and Robinson in the first film has a lot to do with that. But of course I still like this and Clinton as the pilot always makes me howl. It’s roles like this that taught me never to trust Hal Holbrook.

    • Todd B
      2/21/18

      Yeah, that gritty look – and feel – of Dirty Harry was definitely missing from Magnum Force…and I think an absent Don Siegel had something to do with that. And that last line of yours cracked me up; I pictured you running into Holbrook on a neighborhood street or at the grocery store and avoiding him like the plague, and Hal wondering why you don’t like him!

  2. Julie Dunning
    2/20/18

    Your preliminary intro blurbs are always so clever and typically hilarious! Thanks for the entertainment!

    • Todd B
      2/21/18

      Thanks, Julie! I always work hard at creating a good lead-in paragraph…sometimes it doesn’t quite work out, though. I will admit, they’re usually quite easy to do with the really bad films I review!

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From the Monolith: 123

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