Lady police officers! What’ll they think of next?
I promised you 3.5 readers a review of all the “Dirty Harry” movies and I’ll get there slowly but surely. BQB here with a review of the third installment of the series.
It’s a shame that Dirty Harry gets stereotyped in the annals of movie history as a close minded, chauvinist pig…when in reality, he (or perhaps I should say his real life alter ego, Clint Eastwood) made what could very well be the movie that makes the case for women in law enforcement.
Our tale begins when Harry is taken off the street and forced to serve on the department’s hiring committee (punishment for foiling a store robbery by driving a car, well, into the store, and over the hoodlums in the process.)
Here, he meets Officer Kate Moore (Tyne Daly in an early role). It becomes clear that the rest of the committee wants to push Moore through the process and get her on the street as a full fledged detective pronto in order to fill a quota mandated by the Mayor (i.e. the force must have so many female detectives).
Clint, on the other hand, is repulsed by the idea – not that a woman might be a detective but that a green, inexperienced woman might become one. Moore has only ever worked in the police’s records department and while the other members of the committee throw her softball questions, Clint, in his trademark, teeth gritting, vein bulging out of his forehead way, holds out his hand as if it were a gun and asks Moore, “What are you going to do when somebody points a gun at you and says, ‘Hit the deck, you son of a bitch?'”
Ironically, while Dirty Harry is often thought of in the public eye as the poster boy for racist cops, he works with partners of different races throughout the series, never blinking an eye. The only thing he cares about is if they get the job done. Typically, they do, and it’s made clear Harry appreciates them for it.
Meanwhile, Harry despises incompetence. He has no patience for it and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Ergo, there’s a chubby white detective who, throughout the first three films, Harry nicknames, “Too Much Linguini,” lambasting the cop for eating himself to the point where he can’t do his job effectively and gets worn out if he has to climb a fence or chase a bad guy.
In short, if you’re a good cop, Harry’s happy to have you as his partner. If you suck, he’d rather not have you around. Race or sex doesn’t matter.
As the film progresses, Harry and Moore partner up to take the terrorist group down. Slowly but surely, Moore proves herself to be effective and competent. What she lacks in experience, she makes up for in heart and a drive to succeed. She wants no special treatment from Harry which is good because he isn’t giving any.
I hate to give away a spoiler, but the most heroic scene in the film goes not to Eastwood, who could have demanded it, since he was a bankable box office draw at the time, but to Moore who saves the day. I assume the point is if you lack experience, then you at least have to have the guts to throw yourself into the fray and risk life and limb even though you don’t know what you’re doing. Fake it till you make it.
Conversely, the saddest part of the movie proves Harry to be prophetic – Moore could have used more training on the street as a beat cop, getting some experience going up against petty crooks before being promoted to being a homicide detective, a job that requires going after some of the worst killers and psychopaths imaginable.
The movie definitely sparks a debate. Women should be able to be cops and should be considered for detective positions. However, the desire to be able to say “We have women detectives because we’re so PC!” shouldn’t trump basic common sense – i.e., Harry most likely was a beat cop for many years. He probably had punks take swings at him, take shots at him, dealt with all kinds of low level scumbags and learned to keep his cool and be on the look out for danger around ever corner. When he scoffed at Moore in her interview, he wasn’t trying to say she shouldn’t be a detective ever because she’s a woman, but that she shouldn’t be a detective today, because she should be on the street awhile first.
Then again, there’s room for the argument, “Well, if you don’t let women get the experience then how can they ever move up?” That’s true, and perhaps Harry could have calmed down a little and said something like, “Hey hiring committee, I know you want to have women detectives, but there’s no sense putting greenhorns out there, so perhaps we can make an effort to get more police women on the beat and into cruisers, give them experience before they take on the worst.”
But alas, Harry doesn’t always find the right words when he’s mad.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It splits the women in the workforce argument in half – yes, they should be able to do what they want, but no, they shouldn’t be waved on through, especially when its a job where lives are on the line.