THE DEAD POOL (1988)
Rating: 3 on 4 / Buy the DVD here
Tagline: Dirty Harry Just Learned A New Game
Directed by Buddy Van Horn
Starring Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson, Patricia Clarkson, and Jim Carrey
THE PLAN: Hardened Detective “Dirty” Harry Callahan of the San Francisco Police Department is one of the city’s biggest celebrity now that he’s brought one of the biggest crooks in SF history down. Unfortunately, that lands him on the list of The Dead Pool, a game where people guess which big-shot celebrity will die next, and the rest of his fellow list-makers are dropping like flies. Not one to take shit from nobody, Dirty Harry is fast on the case, trying to solve the murders before he’s the next one taken out.
THE KILL: DIRTY HARRY hit theaters in a big way in 1971, rekindling America’s love affair with the godfather of badassness Clint Eastwood, and given a new name for a world without heroes. Over practically the 2 decades that followed, DIRTY HARRY spawned four sequels, ending with THE DEAD POOL in 1988, a totally different era of action film that was around when Dirty Harry first made his appearance. Instead of yoking himself out to compete with the likes of Schwarzenegger or Stallone, Dirty Harry is just as crass, unflinching, and old as ever, fueling more flame to the fire that you don’t need to be a young buck with big muscles to kick ass in an action film as long as you have the attitude, and Dirty Harry has all that attitude and more in THE DEAD POOL.
Arguably the lesser entry in the series, THE DEAD POOL is still a fun ride and for us horror fans, slightly more close to home than the rest. Why? Because the main killer is obsessed with horror movies! And while it borders on the side of being preachy, touching on the fact that anyone who watches or makes horror flicks as seen in the film has to be f*cked in the head enough to murder in real life, it’s forgiven by Liam Neeson’s performance as acclaimed horror director Peter Swan and the horror flick he’s directing during the course of the movie, a flick that features an early performance by rocker Jim Carrey (!!!) lip synching GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle”! For a DIRTY HARRY movie to feature some of today’s biggest stars before anyone knew who the f*ck they were makes THE DEAD POOL an entertaining watch, maybe now more than ever before.
Neeson’s quite young here and rocks a pony tailed mullet that can only come out of the ‘80s and the guy’s a super dickface, which makes him a great villain and leading suspect in Dirty Harry’s investigation. The investigation lands Harry a new partner who surprisingly enough, doesn’t die by the end of the movie, though does get considerably hurt while Harry walks away Scott-free. Classic Dirty Harry. The film, in a way, is playing homage to the previous DIRTY HARRY films while trying to be its own monster and, for the most part, it works. Harry is still as badass as ever, rocking his ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality that keeps the body count rolling up and out of control. The fact that they made Harry a celebrity was a nice touch, playing on the character’s popularity in the real world and trying to duplicate it (but for different reasons, of course) in the film’s world.
But is it a perfect movie? Of course not. The musical score blares its ‘70s sax but tries to incorporate an equal ‘80s sound that falls flat and oftentimes feels obnoxious to how the rest of the film plays out. There’s little-to-know style in the camera work, set-up, action sequences, or any other aspect of the film, and really, without Clint Eastwood doing what he does so well, the film wouldn’t be noteworthy in the slightest. Maybe it’s because Eastwood didn’t direct this entry, or because this was desperate last attempt to cash in on Harry’s box office clout, but whatever the reason, it falls short of the epicness that encompasses the previous four films.
That said, Harry is as hardcore as he ever was, killing people left and right with his gigantic hand canon, spitting one-liners like they're going out of style, pushing back and resisting anything his superiors want him to do, and effortlessly scoring with the ladies. Dirty Harry is about as high on the coolness level as anyone could be, and quite possibly doubled since he looks like he’s pushing 60—yet that never stops him from taking names and kicking ass. Of course, all this could be said about one of the DIRTY HARRY movies, but it’s nice to see that even this late in the ‘80s, in somewhat half-cocked attempt to revive the franchise, they didn’t pull back and make Dirty Harry something else—he’s the same Dirty Harry you know and love from the first film, and that my friends, is what makes THE DEAD POOL shine.
If slick and gritty action flicks from the ‘70s are you’re thing, you can’t do much better than this late ‘80s hybrid, throwing Clint Eastwood’s iconic character Dirty Harry into the action one last time. Regardless of the basic storyline being ho-hum (though the horror movie angle was fun to watch unfold) or how much of the edge that was behind the earlier DIRTY HARRY films is taking a nap throughout this final entry, Eastwood brings his all to his final performance as Dirty Harry, and if for only one reason, that’s what makes THE DEAD POOL special. Throw in an early cameo appearance by Jim Carrey and have Liam Neeson as an a-hole horror film director, and you have yourself one fun ride with plenty of action and a respectable body count to boot.
Trailer for THE DEAD POOL!
TOP DEATH: Dirty Harry, a giant harpoon gun, and a bad guy forever stuck to the side of a building. 'Nuff said.
TOP ACTION SCENE: I'm going for the most entertaining and most ridiculous car chase sequences I've seen in a while, featuring a remote control toy car (armed with C4) chasing Dirty Harry through the streets of San Francisco, followed by the crazy bastard driving the remote control car as he chases at high speeds in hot pursuit. A big car, a little car, a big car, flying down hilly streets, catching mad air, and f*cking shit up along the way. Nice!
TOP HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: We're talkin' Dirty Harry here, and he's too manly for anything fruity in his bowl.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Probably one of the tamest in the boob department out of the rest of the series, Dirty Harry shacks up with some reporter but we never get to see her in anything less than a trenchcoat--and there's not a random hooker or visit to a strip club to be found.
Dirty Harry: You're out of bullets. And you know what that means... you're shit outta luck.
Dirty Harry:Fuck with me, buddy, I'll kick your ass so hard you'll have to unbutton your collar to shit.
DRINKING GAME: With every grimace Dirty Harry makes, or every time it seems like his ulcer is giving him problems, you have to drink!
TRIVIA: Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in Peter Swan's horror film within the film, firing a harpoon gun through a window (the same harpoon gun Dirty Harry uses later).