Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on July 13, 1988
Directed by Buddy Van Horn
Written by Steve Sharon
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Jim Carrey, Anthony Charnota, Ronnie Claire Edwards, Louis Giambalvo, Patrick Van Horn
As excited as I was when Sudden Impact was released in 1983, I felt nothing but indifference when The Dead Pool—the fifth and final installment in the Dirty Harry series—hit theaters five years later. I hadn’t expected to ever see another Dirty Harry film released, and I’m not even sure I wanted to see another one; to me it felt like its time had come and gone. But I went to see it just the same, and the perplexing thing is, I know for a fact I went, but I remember nothing of the experience: not the city, not the theater, not the person I went with…nothing!
And good lord, did I ever despise this movie after seeing it that first time; so much, in fact, that I never watched it again until last night, when I did so for this review. And that’s when something crazy happened: I didn’t hate it nearly as much as I had before. In fact, it actually kept me interested throughout, and I ended up liking it much more than I had Sudden Impact. And since I hadn’t remembered all that much about it anyway, the story and situations were mostly new to me, and the film surprisingly had me entertained for most of its short run time.
Clint Eastwood returns as SFPD homicide inspector ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, and after all these years of newsworthy tactics and arrests, he’s become a popular subject for the local Bay Area media; though the police department loves all the positive press, Harry is uncomfortable with it. When he makes the news for helping put a mobster in prison, he soon finds himself in a ‘dead pool’, a game where players try to predict which celebrities will die soon. As more and more names are crossed off the list, and Harry investigates the crimes, he becomes the target of a demented killer.
So what was it that I was noticing now, and even enjoying now, that I wasn’t then? First off, and most noticeably, was the absence of Sondra Locke from the film (thank you, Patricia Clarkson!), which meant the story—and camera—could go back to concentrating more on Eastwood than on her. I also liked how Eastwood seemed more like Callahan again, specifically his expressions, his mannerisms, and the way he spoke, and how he spent more time in the squad room and at crime scenes, engaged in police business, instead of hanging out with Locke or walking a flatulent dog.
And there were also some nice callbacks to earlier films: reporter Clarkson had a book of Callahan news clippings, where you could spot stories taken from Dirty Harry (his arrest of Scorpio) and Magnum Force (the department’s pistol shooting contest); a scene took place near the big white church seen in Dirty Harry; and snippets of Lalo Schifrin’s obnoxious ’80s score were similar to the string score heard in the first film. Also, back from his role in Sudden Impact was Michael Currie as Donnelly, Callahan’s superior and one of the few characters from the last two films I liked.
Contrary to what critics Roger Ebert (“As good as the original!”) and Gene Siskel (“Perhaps the best Dirty Harry film since the original!”) had to say about it, The Dead Pool still wasn’t all that great; the opening gun battle between Callahan and some mob thugs was horribly directed, the radio-controlled car chase was beyond ridiculous (yet is loved by many, including Eastwood), and the ending—where Harry is holding a harpoon gun big enough (ahem) and outlandish enough to look foolish in a whaling adventure—was just too simple and obvious, and should’ve been better rendered. But I’ll give it this: it’s no longer the least favorite Dirty Harry film I’ve ever seen. (5/10)