Thursday, August 18, 2011

Movie Time: Dirty Harry.

Movie Time with Breakfastman: Dirty Harry.

So, how about that Clint Eastwood, eh? The man has starred in dozens of classic and highly influential movies. From classic westerns like A Fistfull of Dollars, classic suspense movies like Play Misty For Me,  or even modern day classics like Gran Torino, the man has had a massive effect on pop culture. While I have not seen many of his movies (the only ones I can remember watching are Play Misty for Me and The Beguiled), I still respect the man and the impact he has had both on the public consciousness and the film industry. So, while perusing the shelf's of DVD's at the local library, looking for something to review, I stumbled upon this movie. Remembering that the film is considered a classic, and remembering how good another police thriller from the same era was, I decided to pick this one up. "What the heck", I thought. "The film is considered one of the best films of all time by many people, so it can't be that bad. I needed something to review anyway". So, does the movie aged gracefully after nearly 40 years, like Eastwood himself, or is it more of a William Shatner affair? Well, as always, you can skip to the TL;DR at the bottom and spoil it for yourself, but where is the fun in that? This is Dirty Harry.

                 "He's one bad mother f-" "Shut your mouth!" "I was only talking about Harry, can you dig it?"

The movie starts out, conveniently enough, with a murder. A sniper with a hunting rifle has killed a young women in her rooftop swimming pool. Our hero, Harry Callahan, is on the case. On a nearby rooftop he discovers the shell from the snipers gun and a ransom note (of sorts). In this note the killer calls himself "Scorpio" (no relation to the 70's spy film of the same name), and demands that the city pay him $100,000, or he will kill either a catholic priest or a black person. Harry decides to take a break to eat at his favorite hot dog joint, which also just happens to be across the street from a bank. Said bank that was just across the street is also being robbed. Harry won't have that, so he just strolls out there and blows away all of the bank robbers, still eating his hot dog, in one of the most awesome scenes from any movies, ever. It is here that he utters his famous line, pointing the gun at the robber. The robber says he "just has to know" (for some strange reason that I will never figure out) and Harry shows him the answer. 

                                           Yo' dawg, I heard you like Clint Eastwood movies...

After getting patched up at the hospital, Harry is assigned a new partner (to replace his old one who is in the hospital getting treated for a bullet to the gut), named Chico, which he is none too happy about. Later that day, Scorpio is camped out on a rooftop, posed to blow away a black man, when a police helicopter spots him and he is chased away. That night, Harry and Chico spot a man who they think is our villain, but who is actually just a regular guy. While looking through his window, he is accosted by men, believing him to be a peeping tom. Chico scares them away, and they both head out to another place where it has been reported that a man was standing on a roof. It too is another false alarm. Turns out the man standing on the roof is trying to commit suicide. Harry gets him down safely in his own decidedly unorthodox way (I am fairly certain punching the person trying to commit suicide is not standard procedure, but hey, it seems to work here). The next morning it is discovered that Scorpio has shot and killed a young black boy, just like he promised. Believing that he will next attempt to kill a catholic priest, Harry and the rest of the police set up a trap for Scorpio. Long story short: It doesn't go well, and ends with Scorpio killing a patrolling police officer. The stakes are intensified the next day when it is found out Scorpio has kidnapped, raped, and buried alive a 14-year old girl, who he will let die if he does not get the money. Keep it classy Scorpy! I don't want to spoil the rest of the film, but let me just say that games are played, cannons are loosed, Harry gets chewed out by nearly everyone, people die, a famous line is uttered once again, and a good time is had by all.

                                                  Harry is tough on traffic violations.

As far as police action/thrillers go, this one is a very by the books, "loose cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules" affair. It really isn't anything that hasn't been seen in any other movie. There was only one surprising plot twist throughout the entire film. Everything is generally pretty predictable. While the film does do the whole "vigilante cop" thing well enough, there are movies who have done it better (Die Hard for one). I suppose one could argue that it was the first one if it's kind, so you can excuse some of the derivative nature of the film. I would have to agree, but I would also have to fire back that the movie should be able to stand on its own, regardless of whether or not it was the first in the genre/one that popularized the genre. The reason that films that popularized the psycho killer (qu'est-ce que c'est?) sub-genre of horror like Psycho or Halloween still hold up today is because of how well put together and memorable they were. While, yes, Dirty Harry is well made, outside of a few very good moments, it honestly wasn't very memorable. I had to use wikipedia quite often while writing this review just to remember how the plot went, which I have never had to do with other movies I have reviewed (not that I have reviewed that many, but still). It wasn't like I wasn't paying attention to the movie, I was. I remember the order of events in The Lost Boys better than I do in this movie, and I barely payed attention while watching that movie. It honestly just feels kind of generic, which is something I greatly dislike in a movie. I would honestly prefer a unique movie that makes no sense, a la Phantasm, to a movie that is well put together, but unmemorable, like this one.

                   Being called into a room to find 3 of your bosses already waiting there. Never a good sign.

The writing is good for what it is. There are no plot holes or continuity errors from what I could spot (though, I have to admit, I am usually very bad at spotting plot holes or continuity errors), and all the dialogue feels believable enough. The bad guy is sufficiently slimy and evil to warrant our contempt and desire for Harry to put a bullet through his heart. Harry himself is the very definition of "vigilante cop", going through all the motions (illegal search and seizure, beating up witnesses, disobeying orders, yelling a lot about "rights" and such, the whole nine yards. Pretty much going through the motions). The direction, cinematography, and music are all good. Clint Eastwood puts in a good performance in the leading role of Harry, and all the other actors play their parts well. There are a couple great actions scenes at the beginning and end of the movie too, for what that is worth. It is worth noting that the film seems to encourage vigilante justice, illegal search and seizure, and police brutality, but I honestly wouldn't read that much into it, since it honestly doesn't seem like that was the director or the writers intention. 

                 Coming soon to a console near you: Dirty Harry, the Game. Starring Nolan North as Dirty Harry.

Dirty Harry is a pretty by-the-numbers police action/thriller. It has some entertaining moments and is pretty well made, but it is also pretty unmemorable. There have been better movies in this sub-genre, but there have also been worse. If you have a hankering for a good "vigilante cop"-style movie, this a decent choice.

-Breakfastman out.

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