Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on December 9, 1983
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Joseph C. Stinson
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Paul Drake, Albert Popwell, Audrie J. Neenan, Jack Thibeau, Nancy Parsons, Michael Currie, Michael V. Gazzo, Mara Corday, Camryn Manheim, Lisa London
I remember how excited I was in 1983 when I found out that Clint Eastwood was returning as Harry Callahan in a new movie, called Sudden Impact, the first Dirty Harry entry to hit the screens in seven years, and something I’d assumed would never happen again. The night became an event, with my Dad and I heading down on a Wednesday evening, five days after the film had opened, to the neon-lit Loma Theatre in Pt. Loma, with my younger brother at home waiting for us to return, eager to hear our thoughts on this latest Eastwood venture.
Obviously I liked the idea of the movie, but afterwards I wasn’t quite as full-tilt in love with it as I’d hoped. There were aspects of it I really enjoyed—the infamous ‘Go ahead, make my day’ scene, the .44 Magnum Automag, and a pair of return appearances from Bradford Dillman and Albert Popwell—and of course seeing Clint play Callahan again was the reason for me being there, but I think a corner had been turned somehow, and what had made the first three Dirty Harry films so cool and so much fun in the ’70s could no longer be captured in the ’80s. It just didn’t feel the same.
In fact, even the screen story seemed a bit misguided and awkward for a Dirty Harry film. After Callahan uses some unorthodox methods to thwart a robbery and inadvertently kill a crime lord, he’s given a reprimand by his superiors and sent on vacation to a small coastal town, where he gets involved in a serial killer case. As it turns out, the killer is a woman, and she’s avenging the gang rape of her and her younger sister from ten years earlier, by killing off the gang one by one. Then Harry takes an interest in a woman he meets in town, and lo and behold, she’s the killer!
Clint was looking older now, a little battle weary and worn down by time, but he still had the Callahan aura about him, and he could still handle himself quite well behind the barrel of a gun, the wheel of a car, and the swing of a fist. I just wish the material had been better suited to him, and had concentrated more on his character and his story. Instead, it seemed to focus too much on Sondra Locke and her serial killer character Jennifer, which fans of the series would no doubt consider outright sacrilege. She is not the reason we’re watching this movie.
And believe it or not, she wasn’t the worst of it, although her overtly-dramatic reactions and expressions made it close. Eastwood the director seemed to care more about memorable ‘fan service’ moments and cinematic visuals than real-life logic and common sense, and the overboard characters, awful ’80s music score, and forced hilarity (a bulldog that pees everywhere and passes gas!) didn’t help matters much. And while the gang of rapists were your basic garden-variety dirtbags, the red-headed dyke leader of the bunch was flat-out repulsive, and made watching even more a chore.
I hadn’t watched Sudden Impact in quite some time, but after this recent viewing I realized just how awful it really was, and I wondered how different and better the final product might’ve been if it had been made in the ’70s, with Dean Reisner (co-writer of Dirty Harry and The Enforcer) involved with the screenplay, and perhaps a different—and less nepotistic—director behind the camera. I could easily watch the first three Dirty Harry films over and over and never grow tired of them, but with Sudden Impact, I have no need or desire to ever watch it again. (3/10)