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I recently went all out and watched every DIRTY HARRY movie back to back. The original DIRTY HARRY and MAGNUM FORCE (the latter was written by one of my fav writers John Milius) were solid, THE ENFORCER was a little weak with too much comedy and sad-sack bad guys (love the chick partner angle though) and THE DEAD POOL was passable, basically a film made for HARDCORE Harry fans (in my opinion of course). Which brings me to SUDDEN IMPACT (WATCH IT HERE), a flick that tried to marry the revenge and the Harry action/police subgenres and somehow pulled it off and with gusto at that!
Watching the DIRTY HARRY films back to back, SUDDEN IMPACT totally stood out. And I am sure that the fact that CLINT EASTWOOD directed it had a lot to do with that (the only one he ever directed by the way, suicide scene in the original aside). After the fluffy THE ENFORCER, Eastwood obviously wanted to go weighty and dark with the character and for all we know he was bored with the role by that time and needed to spruce it up! The result was two different kinds of movies rolled up into one that somehow managed to co-exist and deliver. On one end we had the usual Harry spiel i.e. his superiors are frustrated with him, he plays by his own rules, he spits out clever one liners (this is the film that saw the birth of the iconic “Go ahead, make my day”) and every body and their uncle's uncle are out to kill him – they try – they fail… miserably. You don’t f*ck with Harry, Harry does the f*cking!
Running parallel to that we had a story that was akin to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE or even DEATH WISH. A young woman seeking revenge against the scum that raped her and her younger sister. The film succeeded in terms of that plot line as well, showcasing a truly ugly and despicable crime and quite the layered female character in Jennifer played by Eatswood’s main squeeze at the time Sondra Locke (or was she, Clint liked to f*ck around). The manner in which that tale was told was straight out of a 70’s exploitation/grindhouse film. The villains were one note for the most part (two of them had some nuance), the crime itself was uber REVOLTING and the kills cruel and vicious. Directing wise, Eastwood channelled Hitchcock in the way he handled said subplot, the flashbacks screamed VERTIGO and Jennifer scheming reminded of MARION CRANE doing her thing in PSYCHO.
The parralels between Harry and Locke’s character was compelling too. At the end o the kill both of them were on the same track and it was swell to have Harry deal with a person who was basically a mirror image of himself, but one that was driven by hate as opposed to a sense of duty. I guess you can say that the film was thought provoking, which is not something I’d usually associate with a DIRTY HARRY movie. It posed hefty moral questions about justice, what is wrong and what is right. Socially imposed justice (which is often lacking) versus a more “organic” justice. I personally found the explorations of those themes/question fascinating! Add to that all kinds o sick action set pieces and Eastwood’s obvious understanding of Harry’s now iconic stature (in the way he shot him, that ending shadow shot was genius) and you get a visceral show!
On the flipside the fact that EVERVODY is trying to kill Harry with little success and Harry filling so many bodybags that he hasn’t been taken off the streets stretched my suspension of disbelief a tad. Nothing too serious, but it had to be elbow dropped. This is the kind of movie you can’t think too much about afterwards cause the holes do surface. Sondra’s Locke performance also had me on the fence. At times she was very efficient in terms of conveying her pain, but she often came off as unlikable and a bit of a snobby beeyatch. Not a good vibe to put out when I’m supposed to be rooting for ya!
NOTE 1: I could have done without the farting dog (the f*ck?) - felt like it was out of a different movie.
NOTE 2: Audrie Neenan was so good as the evil and crassy chick that I wanted to throw her out a f*cking window. At least her clever dialogue sometimes made her presence worth while. Hard to beat gems like “Give me what you got, twat lips, or I'll make your face have its first period!”
On the whole SUDDEN IMPACT wound up being the darkest of all the DIRTY HARRY movies, which is why I felt compelled to address it here! Smith, Wesson and I recommend you give this one a whirl!