Dirty Harry (1971): Breakdown by Kain424
A .44 Magnum-wielding California cop breaks all the rules to track down a serial killer, spawning a genre and a half (read as: initiates a series of plot points that would become THE hard-boiled cop cliches).
Dirty Harry is a movie that rails against a perceived left-wing, softie system, that would give more weight to the rights of criminals than the victims of crime. There is a bleak outlook here, with Harry Callahan seen as a lone, Christ-like figure, torturing himself (at one point, he is even beaten horribly under a giant crucifix) by playing by the rules in order to save humanity. Still, the film doesn’t revel in violence, but rather shows it as a dark thing, realistic and nasty. And even Harry, who would rather see criminals dead than hurting others, seems to have to work himself up just to do the deed. Or perhaps he is restraining himself.
With John Milius doing much of the writing, the fascist angles of the storyline take precedence, making the mockery of the system represented almost cartoonish. From there, the film escalates to turn the cop procedural film on its head. The bad guys have the advantage all the way, with our lone hero given almost no assistance from his superiors. Dirty Harry subverts the noir genre. It’s not about how much you go through to do the right thing, it’s about how much you put the bad guys through to make sure the wrong thing never happens.
All this makes for not only an interesting watch, but also an entertaining one. Eastwood’s oft-imitated performance (see: Yes, Madam) is one for the ages, and Andrew Robinson is a hoot as the smarmy, over-the-top Scorpio.
As an added bonus, we get to see the beginnings of the buddy-cop genre (which Hickey & Boggs would more fully realize a year later), with these soon-to-become-cliche mainstays:
-A renegade cop with an overbearing chief
-Bad-ass renegade cop reluctantly takes on a partner
-Partners are of different races/ethnicities
-Partners Bond in a car
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Clint Eastwood is “Dirty” Harry Callahan
The original hard-boiled cop. Clint plays Harry as a man that close to crossing over into criminal territory. He only wears a badge because it’s his get-out-of-jail-free card. By the end of the film, it seems Callahan’s decided he doesn’t even need a badge, as it was just hindering him anyway. Harry’s got his own ideas about justice, and none of them involve anyone named Miranda.
There’s one point in the film where Harry has to try and talk down a suicidal man up in a high rise. It’s only because it’s his job that Harry even bothers doing so, and when he gets up to the guy Harry just knocks the poor bastard out cold and carries him down to ground level.
The only reason for Callahan’s seemingly destructive police procedural ideas given is that his wife died one night when a drunk driver crossed the center line and killed her. It seems that Harry doesn’t care about his life anymore, and has decided, Bruce Wayne-style, to keep others from being the victims of criminal apathy. He will torture suspects, put the lives of innocent bystanders (men, women, or even children) in danger, all to pursue his goal of a criminal-free society.
[THE BODY COUNT: 07]
Considered excessively violent at the time of its release, the bodycount is shockingly low. Harry manages to bag three corpses over the duration of the film, nearly matching the antagonist death for death.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
The final kill of the film is well worth the entire movie’s build-up. Watch it, and you’ll see what I mean.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
There’s not much, which is odd when one considers that this flick helped kick off the start of buddy-cop movies. However, there is a scene where Harry comes across a car with people making out on the inside. Harry speaks into his microphone, “Couple of kids necking.”
His partner replies, “Boys or girls?”
I like where they’re going, but it stops there and the plot is allowed to resume. Oh well.
Harry also continues to munch on a hotdog while systematically shooting at a group of bank robbers. Misconstrue that however you like.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Surprise! Strippers in a strip club. Objectified women for the win!
While spying on a suspect (well, peeping through a window), Harry finds a woman, nick-named “Hot Mary”, undressing. For some reason, I don’t think this qualifies.
While on a rooftop stake-out, Harry also sees what appears to be some sort of sexy party starting up in a nearby building. We get full-on female nakedness, and Eastwood remarks, “You owe it to yourself to live a little, Harry.” Hey, it was the 70s.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The Scorpio has an entire busload of children held hostage chugging down the freeway. He is brutal, but in control of the situation. That is, until he sees Callahan standing atop an overpass, waiting for him. Scorpio completely losses his cool, and the myth of Clint Eastwood grows ten times.
As for the line, well, I’m going to have to go with the famous “Do you feel lucky? speech. Early on, a cocksure Dirty Harry delivers it with all the style and panache of a cowboy:
“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?”
This, however, is just a set-up for the final, great line. By the end of the film, Harry is a shell of what he once was. His hope in humanity lost, his trust in the system broken, and his rage against what he sees as pure evil is boiling over. He is practically begging his opponent to go for his weapon and give Callahan a reason to kill. Harry’s signature weapon pointed at his foe, he paraphrases his line, gritting his teeth in bitter anger and disgust through it all:
“I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking, ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Now, to tell you the truth, I forgot, myself, in all this excitement. 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 a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk!?”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
We’d be better off living in a fascist society, where courts have given way to firing squad patrols who shoot first, reload, then never bother to ask questions.
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [MAGNUM FORCE]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice