Directed By: Don Siegel
Written By: Harry Julian Frank and Rita M. Fink
Staring: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, and Andrew Robinson
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 kind of lost track myself. But being as 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? -Harry Callahan
Dirty Harry is Clint Eastwood at his very best. Harry Callahan is perhaps one of the toughest character’s ever written. His flawlessly smooth demeanor, and nonchalant indifference to his foes,6 along with a dry sense of humor make him a classic character in a great action oriented crime flick. His sense of moral for the good, but his own ideals of what rules he should or shouldn’t follow make his character the kind of bad well all love to root for.
The extremes of who Callahan is and how dangerous he is displayed his disregard for the rules, but the fact that he gets results at any cost. His past partners are all either dead or in the hospital and when Rodriguez joins him we might already know he’s a tough guy, but the concern for his safety only adds to his mysterious exterior persona. His annoyance with people in general, and his apparent intolerance and dislike of just about everyone in his precinct makes him as near and dear to a vigilante as could be expected. He handles things his own way. The scene with the jumper is darkly hilarious, and only Dirty Harry could get away with it.
You get to see the villain from the start, so there is no mystery who he is, or even what his motivations are, aside from cold hard cash. We only know he is a sociopath assassin and that his intentions go beyond a minor threat. We also learn by the villain and his crimes that this is no buddy cop movie. His crimes are as malicious and violent as they come, and Harry is just dark enough to find him. Even though our villain seems to have very little motivation his character has real psychopath behavior. Just as real and existing is Harry’s gun, the 357 magnum. It nor our hero shies away from the violence and darkness they represent.
Dirty Harry is highly stylized. The clothing, the score, and the way the film is shot is all a reflection of Harry’s smooth demeanor and the shoot first ask questions later mentality. There is no irrational urge to push the story along at a fast moving pace to hurry to a superficial finale. There is a natural pace the film makes, taking each stride, each movement, each examination of evidence, and interlude with the enemy and making it have true meaning, rather than just a beat to build to the climax. It’s real tension, not adrenaline masquerading as substance. There is a heightened awareness of San Francisco as well. The late sixties and early seventies and the threat of serial killers at this time was no joke. This guy was called “The Scorpio” which makes me wonder if he was inspired by the Zodiac. The Zodiac killer in northern California existed throughout the late sixties and then disappeared. While “The Scorpio” is by no means a complete duplicate, the question of whether this as an art imitating life scenario is up in the air.
Every time you feel like the film has ended, that’s it’s met it’s climax (in today’s world that would have happened five minutes into the movie) it presses on with more surprises, more complications, and reality playing more into Harry’s dark world. The unfortunate truth is that reality would protect the villain over Miranda rights. The law is crazy, and Harry and the extremes he goes to, makes it feel like the vigilante should be right. The evidence becoming inadmissible is something that is completely plausible. Letting him go, and the movie continuing is a smack in the face, and suddenly we’re whisked away from Harry’s world into the world of a corrupt system that thankfully he continues to defy.
This is a movie that anybody who loves movies should see. There is no rush and no care watching it how long it is, where it will end, or what the final result is. The joy is this movie is sitting through each scene, wondering what the unpredictable Harry will say or do next, or who will have a reason to say, “That’s why they call him dirty”. There is a lot missing from movies today that can be found in this movie, a lot that would make today’s movies a little bit better. I haven’t seen this since I was a kid, and now I’m ready to go out and add it to my permanent collection, simply because I feel lucky.
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