Dirty Harry: A Late Review

So, instead of watching the OU- S. Florida State game, I watched the History Channel’s presentation of Dirty Harry (1971 dir. Don Siegel). This would mark the second time I have seen the film (I watched it a few months ago on AMC). To be honest, I rather like the movie, it is nicely filmed and presents a fascinating image of San Francisco in the early 1970s. But I am also troubled by the hamfisted and ill realized political themes.

What I mean is that “Dirty” Harry Callahan, a SFPD inspector hunting the sniper calling himself “Scorpio,” is his own worse enemy. The reason why Scorpio gets off after his initial arrest is because Callahan, in his zeal to capture the killer and possibly save a young girl, does not go through the appropriate, legal methods to acquire the evidence.  How difficult would it be to get a warrant? Especially with the stakes as they are?

What Callahan does is, in the end, a stupid move. But the blame is placed on the D.A. , the Mayor, and a “retired liberal judge” from UC Berkeley. This attribution of blame is, in the end, clumsy. Callahan has a point that the victims need someone to speak for them, but the idea that the police and prosecutors should have carte blanche is an even worse proposition. What is to prevent a not so heroic Callahan from doing what he does to an innocent citizen?

But, as I said, the blame is placed on those in authority, so afraid to lose the case that they will not take steps that Callahan feels is necessary. This blame is clumsy because it neglects to look at Callahan’s own role in foiling the case against Scorpio. Hell, had Scorpio been captured, would he even have been able to be tried given Callhan’s antics? Who really, then, is to be blamed, Callahan or the authorities?

Moving on to Scorpio, I think that he is an adequate villain. He is creepy and psychopathic, but there is something off about him. He does not seem to be nearly menacing enough. In the end, there is something sad about him. This sadness, however, makes him somewhat more  effective. Who really would think that this guy could really be “Scorpio?”

The acting is pretty good. Clint Eastwood is amazing as Callahan, and Andrew Robinson is really good as “Scorpio.” The problem with the acting comes from the secondary players, who seem to be ineffectual foils for Eastwood.

What I really like about the movie is the visuals. I love the location shots, especially the scene at Kezar Stadium. Just amazing. It reminds me why I love San Francisco so much.

In the end, Dirty Harry is a good and enjoyable movie. I do not agree with the politics, but that does not take away from the enjoyment of the movie.


Posted on September 19, 2011, in Movies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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