December 5th, 2008

SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) ***

Sudden Impact went down in cinematic history for the scene where Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) goes into a coffee shop and blows away a couple of gun-toting hoodlums and delivers the immortal line, “Go ahead, make my day!”  The line was later used by Ronald Reagan and became a national catchphrase.  While I personally preferred the “Do you feel lucky?” line from the original Dirty Harry film, there’s no denying just how flat out awesome this scene is.  Not much of Sudden Impact measures up to that classic moment, but it’s still a highly enjoyable Dirty Harry flick.


This time out, Harry’s foe is a female Charles Bronson type (Sondra Locke) who goes on a Death Wish against the men who raped her and her sister.  Harry also has to deal with a posse of Mafia hitmen who want him dead for the death of their godfather. 


Sudden Impact was the first and only Dirty Harry flick directed by Clint himself and the film benefits from his glossy panache behind the camera.  It’s also the first Harry movie that doesn’t mostly take place in his hometown of San Francisco as he goes on vacation to the small town of San Paolo.  The change of pace suits the film well I guess and Eastwood gets a lot of mileage out the boardwalk and pier locations.  Eastwood films the action sequences in a fine manner and handles the rape scenes delicately.  They aren’t explicit but they still pack a punch.


In front of the camera Eastwood gives another “swell” performance.  Unfortunately since this is an early 80’s Clint movie, we have to put up with his longtime girlfriend Sondra Locke.  She’s OK in the role of the avenging rape victim, but the role could’ve used someone with a little more acting chops. 


For comic relief, Harry gets an ugly bulldog that pisses and farts.  I’m sorry but farting bulldogs just don’t belong in a goddamned Dirty Harry movie.  Another miscalculation on Eastwood’s part was by having Harry have an intimate relationship with Locke’s character.  Harry is a loner and shouldn’t be shacking up with emotionally unstable broads, even if they both have itchy trigger fingers.  Yeah, I know that they were going for that whole “You’re like me because you blow people away!” thing, but it just doesn’t stick.  Even though Harry doesn’t play by the rules and will go outside the law to get his man, he never plays judge, jury and executioner the way that Locke’s character does.


While the film runs on too long and the pacing gets kinda pokey during the middle section of the film, it’s still got Clint in classic iconic form, gunning down criminals every ten minutes or so, so it’s A-OK by me.  Despite its flaws, Sudden Impact is still a fine hunk of 80’s action entertainment, enough to make anybody’s day.

THE DEAD POOL (1988) *** ½

The Dead Pool was the first Dirty Harry movie I ever saw as a kid.  I loved it then and it still remains the best of the Dirty Harry sequels.  20 years later, it's become even more fun since it features such up-and-coming superstars as Jim Carrey and Liam Neeson in small roles.  The Guns n’ Roses music certainly helps too.


The plot has slimy horror movie director Peter Swan (Neeson) playing the titular game in which you make a list of famous celebrities and whoever’s list contains the most dead celebrities at the end of the year is the winner.  But there’s a killer on the loose murdering everyone on Swan’s list.  First, junkie rock n’ roller Johnny Squares (Carrey) is murdered, next an annoying movie critic gets stabbed, then a talk show host gets blown up and finally the murderer comes after Swan.  Oh yeah, and Dirty Harry is on the list too and he ain’t too happy about it either.


The film kinda takes an anti-horror movie stance, but that’s okay because The Dead Pool is one heck of an action flick.  The action scenes are all expertly done by director Buddy Van Horn.  Van Horn was Clint’s stunt coordinator on tons of his movies and while his style isn’t as flashy as Clint’s was in Sudden Impact, he sure knows how to film people getting blown away.


The best scene comes when the psycho tries to kill Harry using a high speed RC car filled with explosives.  The toy car chases Harry’s car up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco and climaxes with a great explosion.  This scene is highly improbably and downright silly but it also happens to be a shitload of fun.


Clint’s a little older in this one but he still knows how to pull the trigger of his .44, so it’s all good.  Evan C. Kim from Kentucky Fried Movie makes a fine addition to the never-ending line of Harry’s latest ill-fated partners and Patricia Clarkson is pretty good as a TV reporter/nominal love interest.  Neeson is great as the shady film director and Carrey is fun to watch in his brief, but memorable role.


I could’ve done without the lovey-dovey subplot where Harry takes the reporter on dates and she tells him about herself.  These scenes slow the flick down but not too badly.  There’s also a subplot borrowed from Sudden Impact where a bunch of Mafioso try to gun down Harry every twenty minutes or so.  While it kinda seems out of place with all the dead celebrity stuff, I’m not going to begrude Harry any chance he can get to blow away scumbags. 


As with every Dirty Harry movie, there’s got to be a catchphrase.  This time out, Harry says his line in a Chinese restaurant while breaking up a robbery.  Harry tells the perp that he forgot his fortune cookie, then cracks it open and reads:  “You're shit outta luck!”  Not Harry’s best catchphrase to be sure, but it works, particularly in the end when he reprises the line after shooting the villain with a harpoon gun. 


The Dead Pool is of this writing, the final installment in the Dirty Harry franchise, but I’m still hoping that Clint will go the Rambo route and revive the character again.  I’d love to see a geriatric Harry blowing away scumbags.  At any rate, The Dead Pool is a fitting close to the series and is a top notch Dirty Harry movie.