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Face-Off: Dirty Harry Callahan vs. Martin Riggs

06.19.2014by: Dave Davis
Last week's Face-Off column was a showdown between Channing Tatum and Gerard Butler with their similar-themed Washington D.C. invasion action flicks, and most of you agreed that OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN jammed a knife in the head of WHITE HOUSE DOWN.

This weekend, Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood has a new release in theaters with the musical JERSEY BOYS. While he's only behind the camera for that movie, let's take a look at one of the screen veteran's most enduring characters, his trigger-happy detective from the DIRTY HARRY movies. And who better to put him against than another law-enforcing rule-breaker, Mel Gibson's famously unhinged LETHAL WEAPON cop Martin Riggs.

(Please note: Face Off is an opinion column. We're not using any actual science to prove or disprove anything. It's just for fun.)
PLAYED BY
Actor, producer, musician and award-winning director Clint Eastwood
Actor, producer and award-winning director Mel Gibson
CHARACTER BACKGROUND
Not much is ever revealed about San Francisco PD inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan's past, other than he's a widower and apparently once served in the military. On the force, he tends to have disdain for authority figures, puts victims and innocents above the rights of criminals, uses unconventional methods but gets results, got his nickname because he gets assigned " every dirty job that comes along", and as his ex-partner Frank puts it, "he doesn't play any favorites -- Harry hates everybody."
Riggs was in the Special Forces and served as a CIA-sanctioned assassin in Vietnam, where he claims he " did a guy in Laos from a thousand yards out with a rifle shot in high wind." He also claims that killing was the only thing he was ever really good at. As an LAPD detective, his erratic behavior after losing his wife gets him transferred from undercover narcotics to homicide, where he's partnered with the reluctant Roger Murtaugh.
PARTNER
Callahan had a string of different partners that include Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni), Horace King (Albert Popwell, who actually played different roles in four DIRTY HARRY movies), Kate Moore (Tyne Daly) and Al Quan (Evan C. Kim), all of whom ended up dead or wounded (and then subsequently transferred away from Callahan)
He certainly wasn't thrilled with the partner assignment at first, but Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) eventually took a shine to Riggs and stuck with him through all four movies (and who knows how many bad jokes), and even ultimately "adopted" him into his family
WEAPON OF CHOICE
A .44 Magnum revolver, “the most powerful handgun in the world” – and one of the most famous weapons in movie history (once voted second in an AFI poll, behind the lightsabers of STAR WARS)

(Note: Harry also briefly switched to a .44 Automag in SUDDEN IMPACT)
9mm Beretta: takes 15 in a mag and one in the pipe, wide ejection port, no feed jams

Riggs is also proficient in several martial arts (jiu-jitsu, judo, muay thai, etc.) and Murtaugh jokes that he should be personally registered as a lethal weapon
BAD GUYS
-Psychotic serial killer "Scorpio" (Andrew Robinson)

-A quartet of motorcycle cops moonlighting as vigilantes (David Soul, Robert Urich, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven) and a corrupt lieutenant (Hal Holbrook)

-A group of Vietnam veterans turned terrorists who call themselves the People's Revolutionary Strike Force

-A gang of brutal rapist lowlifes

-A serial killer personally checking names off a celebrity death list

-Various criminals that require shooting
-Former Shadow Company general McAllister (Mitchell Ryan), his loyal cohort Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey), and a small army of mercenaries

-South African consul Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland), his security chief Pieter Vorstedt (Derrick O'Connor), and a small army of henchmen

-Ex-LAPD lieutenant turned arms dealer Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) and his gang of hired thugs

-Chinatown crime boss and human trafficker Uncle Benny (Kim Chan), deadly Triad negotiator Ku (Jet Li), and a whole bunch of armed goons
BODY COUNT
41
39
LOVE INTEREST
Callahan lost his wife to a drunk driver, and apparently since then he's been too busy shooting gigantic holes in criminals to spend time with romance (although he does allow a reporter to buy him dinner in THE DEAD POOL, a date that culminates with him taking on several hitmen)
Some time after losing his wife, Riggs starts to recover from the tragedy and hooks up with sexy young South African consulate secretary Rika van den Haas (Patsy Kensit) -- a romance that ends with her being drowned by her evil boss.

Riggs later gets involved with Internal Affairs investigator Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), who shares his fondness for rough stuff and The Three Stooges. They eventually have a child and get married.
QUOTES
-"I know what you're thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well do ya, punk?"

-"She wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log."

-"When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher's knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross."

-"Listen, punk. To me you're nothin' but dogshit, understand? And a lot of things can happen to dogshit. It can be scraped up with a shovel off the ground. It can dry up and blow away in the wind. Or it can be stepped on and squashed. So take my advice, and be careful where the dog shits ya."

-"A man's got to know his limitations."

-"Go ahead. Make my day."

-Murtaugh: "God hates me, that's what it is."
-Riggs: "Hate him back, it works for me."

-"You think I'm crazy? You wanna see crazy?" [Smacks suspects Stooges-style and draws his gun] Now that's a real badge, I'm a real cop, and this is a real fucking gun!"

-Murtaugh: "Have you ever met anybody you didn't kill?"
-Riggs: "Well, I haven't killed you yet."

-Martin Riggs: "Well if it isn't Mrs. Sigmund Fraud."
-Dr. Woods: "My door is always open."
-Riggs: "I think we should keep this on a professional level, don't you Doc?"
-Dr. Woods: "Why do you do this to yourself, Riggs? "
-Riggs: "Well, who else am I supposed to do it to? None of them'll let me. Besides, I need the money."

-"We're back! We're bad! You're black, I'm mad!"

-"Do you like your chili with or without crushed Oreos?"

-"You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say ain't gonna be much. "
DIRECTORS
-Don Siegel (DIRTY HARRY, plus INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, HELL IS FOR HEROES, THE KILLERS, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ)

-Ted Post (MAGNUM FORCE, plus HANG 'EM HIGH, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, GO TELL THE SPARTANS)

-James Fargo (THE ENFORCER, plus EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, FORCED VENGEANCE)

-Clint Eastwood (SUDDEN IMPACT, plus OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, UNFORGIVEN, HEARTBREAK RIDGE, MYSTIC RIVER -- c'mon, I really gotta tell you about Clint?)

-Buddy Van Horn (THE DEAD POOL, plus ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN, PINK CADILLAC)
Richard Donner was behind the camera for the entire LETHAL WEAPON series (including when it got excessively silly in parts 3 and 4).

His filmography outside of the LETHAL WEAPON franchise isn't expansive, but it's definitely noteworthy: THE GOONIES, SUPERMAN (and a considerable chunk of SUPERMAN II), THE OMEN, LADYHAWKE, THE TOY, INSIDE MOVES, SCROOGED, and his other pairings with Gibson, MAVERICK and CONSPIRACY THEORY.

(And then there's TIMELINE, ASSASSINS, 16 BLOCKS...)
CULTURAL IMPACT
Eastwood's Dirty Harry basically set the standard for the modern boundary-breaking antihero and became its own archetype. More than four decades after his debut, the character remains one of cinema's greatest icons, and one of the coolest cops ever to blast his way onto screens.
The "buddy cop" movie was already surfing a wave of popularity in the 80s thanks to hits like 48 HRS. and BEVERLY HILLS COP, but the smash success of LETHAL WEAPON (and its sequels) saw plenty of attempted contenders to that mismatched-partner "cop on the edge" throne. But the first movie remains one of the finest examples in the subgenre (thanks in no small part to writer Shane Black), and to this day Riggs is probably Gibson's best-known character (arguably, outside of perhaps Mad Max and Braveheart).
DIRTY HARRY
Much as I love Gibson in the Riggs role (and those first two LETHAL WEAPON movies are goddamn classics), I have to give this one to Clint for the undeniable influence that his loose cannon character had on pop culture. Hollywood occasionally threatens a LETHAL WEAPON remake but a new DIRTY HARRY would be impossible. And long after Eastwood is retired, Dirty Harry's legacy will undoubtedly live on.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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