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Dirty Harry

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Dirty Harry

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Reni Santoni
Director: Don Siegel
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: January 1971
Genres: Action, Classic, Suspense

*Also starring: Harry Guardino, John Vernon, Andy Robinson, John Larch

Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

'Dirty Harry' is the film that made Clint Eastwood a bona fide North American movie star. His earlier work in the westerns he made in Italy with Sergio Leone in the 1960's are excellent but they didn't really go over with the North American audiences until years later when they found their way on to late night television and eventually on home video.

1971 was a good year for Eastwood. Not just because of his breakthrough in 'Dirty Harry' but also because it marked the year that Eastwood made his directing debut with another classic of his, 'Play Misty for Me'. Eastwood's directing and producing would eventually pay off for him with the ultimate recognition he received from his peers when Eastwood won two Oscars for producing and directing his anti-Western masterpiece 'Unforgiven' in 1992. Eastwood's venture into directing hasn't always worked because he stretches out his story lines too long in many cases and his films are at times just downright boring. 1997's 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil', directed by Eastwood was a somewhat admirable film but is the first film in years that had me bored more than any other time in recent movie history.

In 'Dirty Harry', Eastwood stars as San Francisco police inspector Harry Callahan, a cop who bends the rules (sometimes breaking them), in his pursuit of the criminal element. America exploded with crime in the mid to late 1960's and 'Dirty Harry' was a timely release that showed Harry's quest to rid the streets of scum his way wasn't necessarily a bad thing and despite some elements of police brutality, criminals will win when they have no rules to play by while the cops do. In fact, to respond to charges leveled by critics that inspector Callahan was a right wing cop with no regard for the constitutional rights of suspects, Eastwood made the first of four sequels to 'Dirty Harry' in 1973 entitled 'Magnum Force' where a group of vigilante police officers executed criminals with a greater disregard for the law and Callahan would not go along with it because he knew where to draw the line in dealing with scum and never crossed it to the point of becoming a criminal himself.

The first time we see dirty Harry is on a roof top where the police are investigating a shooting where a female swimmer was gunned down. Harry's jacket and tie persona, complete with his legendary sunglasses are an instant identification of his character and would strongly establish him throughout the other four 'Dirty Harry' films. The first time we get a clear read on Eastwood's character is in the mayor's office where Harry sarcastically insults the city's highest ranking official and begins investigating the character known as Scorpio who promises to unleash a wave of homicides on the city unless he's paid one hundred thousand dollars.

Andy Robinson would prove to be one of the sickest psychotic villains in movie history and in many ways, his character is still the most frightening to date and his portrait of evil as a man suffering from urban paranoia was arguably the best performance in the film.

The cat and mouse play between Eastwood and Robinson is taut, suspenseful and horrifying at times to watch but as any fan of the series will tell you, you can't stop watching it.

One of the film's scenes that makes for the most interesting debate among movie fans and social observers is the scene in the D.A.'s office after Harry initially captures Scorpio and is told that the suspect will be set free because Eastwood violated his constitutional rights. The D.A. is joined by a judge in explaining Harry's violation of the suspect's rights and the balancing of suspect's rights and the right of the public to be protected by criminals is called into question, giving 'Dirty Harry' it's admirable quality of socially redeeming subject matter and the film avoids becoming just another police exploitation picture directed with talented scarring impact and colourful insight by Don Siegel.

Copyright 1999 Walter Frith

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