DIRTY HARRY “GO AHEAD, MAKE MY DAY” REVIEW: “Sudden Impact” stars Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, A Fistful of Dollars), Sondra Locke (Bronco Billy, Every Which Way But Loose), Pat Hingle (Batman , Maximum Overdrive), Bradford Dillman (Running Scared, Love and Bullets), Paul Drake (Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Cabaret), Audrie Neenan (Ghost Town, The Departed), Jack Thibeau (Escape from Alcatraz, Lethal Weapon), Michael Currie (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Airplane II: The Sequel), Albert Popwell (Coogan’s Bluff, A Last Goodbye), Mark Keyloun (Evergreen, Mike’s Murder), Kevyn Major Howard (Full Metal Jacket, Death Wish II), Bette Ford (Marked for Death, Cheers [TV series]), and Nancy Parsons (Porky’s, Motel Hell). It is directed by Clint Eastwood, and written by Joseph Stinson (Stick, City Heat), Earl E. Smith (The Shadow of Chikara, The Town That Dreaded Sundown), and Charles B. Pierce (The Norseman, Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues). Inspector Harry Callahan (Eastwood) follows a case that sees a rape victim (Locke) exacting revenge on her aggressors in a small town outside San Francisco.
“Go ahead. Make my day.” You know, I never really knew that was a quote from a Dirty Harry film; you could only imagine the look of joy on my face when Eastwood says it in the first act. Gosh, what will we do without Harry Callahan? The man makes up a whole police force for Pete’s sake. But now he’s leaving San Fransisco for the beautiful town of San Paulo, which is pretty much a breath of fresh air for this franchise. I don’t know about you guys, but something about murder in a coastal small town makes for an interesting movie night in my book. At this point, I could care less what is thrown my way in this franchise. To have high hopes for the fourth movie in an ongoing series is laughable. However, I was quite surprised to find that “Sudden Impact” was actually pretty good. Better than its predecessor, without a doubt, but what I’m even realizing now is that… it may be better than “Magnum Force.” Boy, the debates I have within myself late at night. People out there could be thinking of something important like how to ask their loved one to marry them, while I’m over here figuring out where in the Dirty Harry bracket does “Sudden Impact” lie. The life of a reviewer, am I right? But seriously, I was quite shocked to see that this feature, the only in the Dirty Harry series to be directed by Eastwood himself (and produced), was actually solid. Could it have been my low expectations? Possibly, though I highly doubt that if I didn’t have any expectations I would walk out disappointed. You see, at this point the stakes have kinda already reached their pinnacle in this franchise; you may even argue that the bar hasn’t been raised since the first movie, given how the villain Callahan faced was a complete lunatic that loved killing. “Sudden Impact” doesn’t look to raise the stakes either, instead settling for a story of revenge set by a woman who’s going after the people who gang raped her and her sister (leaving the sister in a vegetative state). Like Callahan, she believes that the only way to get anything done is to take action, and does so throughout the course of this two-hour ride. It’s the longest Dirty Harry flick thus far and it shows. The pacing is a lot slower, though the development is carved out a bit better, both in characters and story. Granted, the villains in this outing are still pretty one-dimensional, however there’s not much you can do with a group of five or so people who are getting offed every fifteen minutes. The real meat of the story lies with the woman, Jennifer Spencer, who’s showing her inner pain through rough flashbacks and killing of the people who did her wrong. No, she’s not the most menacing villain to date in this series, but she’s certainly the most developed (by a long shot). We not only get to see her backstory but also her present life, as she received more screen time than I thought she would, probably rivaling Eastwood (which is most likely given to the fact that the man was directing the stinking picture). That’s not to say that Callahan isn’t tossed a bone; in fact, this is the best I’ve seen the character since the first outing. What Eastwood captured was what I was looking for since filling the shoes of Harry, where the character was more action than talk, being showcased in a way that made him unpredictable and even scary. Of course, he has his moments that’ll make you laugh (he straight up kicked a woman in the butt, knocking her down), but overall I enjoyed the return of sincere grit that was seemingly lost in the past two features. What Eastwood also did well was his style of directing. Overall, the Dirty Harry films have solid cinematography, with at least a handful of shots that I truly love. In “Sudden Impact” there were a lot of moments that I enjoyed just watching. Eastwood utilized his shadows heavily, with most shots being barely lit to accentuate the eyes or half of a face; it was awesome, to say the least. It’s probably the best style to be turned in from this franchise (unless “The Dead Pool” blows it out of the water). As for the story, that’s where things can get muddled. Like I said, it’s slow-paced, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. What I found to be a con was just how dull it was the first act. We got the usual to start us off, with Callahan stopping a few robberies and such (delivering the cool line at the top too), but other than that, there’s not much going for the film. Some scenes can feel unnecessary, like the teens throwing malotovs at Callahan’s car, or even the use of Horace, Callahan’s never-talked-about best bud who’s only featured in a few scenes. It takes a while for things to pick up, and until then I was stuck watching nothing unfold for about forty-five minutes. Sure, there were highlights, but when you are left not knowing where the story is going (and if it has a direction), you begin to lose confidence in the picture. I think one scene that really had me slouching in my seat was one in a bar, where Eastwood utilized a wide shot of people playing darts that seemed like an eternity. I had no clue where it was going, nor did I care for the people playing darts. Thankfully, after that scene, the story picked up for the better. At first, I could care less for the homicide case Callahan was looking into, but suddenly things got interesting. It’s hard to say why; my only guess is that the development of the so-called villainess got pretty solid somewhere down the road, and the slow picking off of characters made for an interesting story element. It was at one point in the second act where the plot began to grow on me and essentially wipe away the thoughts of the dull first act, where I began to care for certain characters and revel in the amazing shots Eastwood was obtaining. I loved the smallness of this story because it was gripping and taken seriously. My complaint with “The Enforcer” was how much it banked on the tropes of this franchise, becoming a 70s TV movie of sorts. But here, it felt like a piece of cinema that was dark, rough, and real. And the end fight scene? Talk about a wild ride. I loved how Eastwood made Callahan a force to be reckoned with; to see him hold his .44 Magnum in a silhouette as the bad guys stand watching to see if he moves was spectacular. Basically what I’m saying is, “Sudden Impact” gets better as it goes along, escalating to a radical conclusion that I was satisfied with. It may not be a film that blew me away, but it was one that surprised me. I loved the direction and tone set in the beautiful atmosphere it was filmed in, and the story felt more true to the character of Callahan that has failed to be replicated since “Dirty Harry.” To say that this is my second favorite film of the franchise seems like a betrayal, however after further thought, I can’t not say it. No, it doesn’t top the first or ride its heels, but it’s a satisfying outing that relishes what made “Dirty Harry” so good while standing on its own two feet. I’d say check it out. FINAL SCORE: 80%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: