Tag Archives: dirty harry

Movie Review – The Enforcer (1976)

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review – Dirty Harry (1971)

I know what you’re thinking, 3.5 punks.  You’re thinking, did he fire off six posts, or only five?  Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I lost track myself.  But seeing as how this is a .44 blog that’s only read by 3.5 people and could bore your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself, do you feel lucky, 3.5 punks?

Well, do ya?

BQB here with a review of the movie that started it all  – “Dirty Harry.”

You’ve had since the early 1970s to watch this but just an FYI – SPOILERS ensue.

Poor Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood).  To the uninitiated, i.e. those newbies who’ve never watched one of his flicks, it’s easy to assume his nickname means he’s a “Dirty” cop.

Nope.  He’s just the guy on the San Francisco police department who gets called on to do all the “dirty jobs” no one else wants to do.

Some crook has a gun pointed to a hostage’s head?  Call Harry.  Some psycho is threatening to jump off a building?  Call Harry.  There’s a bank robbery in progress?  Hey, Harry, take care of that, will you?  We’ll all be hiding over here and we’ll give you a critique of your performance when you’re done.

Yes, it’s not easy being the cop everyone depends on.  It’s a thankless job, to say the least.  No cop wants to be the one who makes the split second decision about whether to shoot a bad guy and put a hostage at risk or let the bad guy walk, taking the hostage along to possibly kill later.

No cop wants to be the one who walks into a bank robbery in progress and take down a gang of baddies using nothing but his wits and his sidearm, a fat ass .44 Magnum hand cannon in Harry’s case.

But Harry does this bullshit all the time and does he ever get thanked for it?  Nope.  Instead, he’s constantly harassed and berated (throughout the entire series) by a never-ending supply of police brass, supervisors, bureaucrats and politicians who have never even fired a gun but are completely happy to bitch Harry out for property damage, ensuing lawsuits, alleged civil rights violations and so on.

There’s the rub.  These dummies want the crooks caught, but they’re so clueless they think that the bad guys can be taken down easily, that Harry is somehow just an evil, trigger happy caveman who thirsts for blood and guts and a nicer cop could somehow talk the bad guys into having tea and crumpets.

You, the viewer, learn better.  You’re follow Harry along throughout the course of his days, watching as he works the serial killer case, with occasional interruptions from villains along the way.  Poor Harry.  Throughout the series, the dude rarely enjoys a meal without the joint he’s eating in getting robbed, requiring him to break out his massive revolver while he’s still chewing on his meal.  The dirty job doer’s work is never done.

In this first film, there’s the iconic scene where Harry, after dispatching a group of bank robbers, stares down one last crook.  The crook stares at a shotgun lying on the sidewalk, just inches from his grasp.  Will he reach for it?  Harry gives the infamous speech about whether he fired off five shots or six and the robber decides to let the shotgun go – better safe than sorry.

In today’s politically correct world, is it problematic for a white cop to be gunning down a gang of black bank robbers?  Yes.  Not arguing that.  If the movie is ever remade (which would be like remaking the Mona Lisa), you’d never a more diverse gang, probably an all white gang.

But here’s the thing.  I can understand if you view this movie on a surface level and say, “Oh God, I hate this.  It’s all about a white cop who gets off on shooting black people and it’s giving a bad message that black people are criminals.”

My only request is to look at the film deeper.  Harry, with his sneer and his badass hair and stylish sport coat and sunglasses, yes Harry, the civil rights’ lawyer’s worst nightmare, is, in many ways, an old school social justice warrior.

I know, it sounds crazy, but stay with me.  Yes, the bank robber is black…but, Harry doesn’t see that.  Or he sees it but doesn’t care.  Harry doesn’t see a black guy.  He sees a bad guy.  There’s a war for the streets of San Francisco and everyday, Harry is on the front lines.  The actions he takes protect people of all races and colors, creeds and religions.  There’s law abiding citizens and there’s criminals and if you’re the latter, Harry will take you down.

To drive this point home, consider that later in the film, the serial killer murders a young African-American boy, only ten years old.  In a film where this epically stoic character who is all grit and macho manliness, this is the one moment where he looks broken up.  He’s failed two law abiding citizens, the boy and his mother, and it’s clear from the look on his face that he’s going make this murderer pay.

At the end of the film, Harry squares off against the white, looney tunes serial killer.  The killer is taken down in a similar fashion to the black bank robber at the start of the film.  The killer is on the ground and a gun is within his reach.  Harry recites the “Do you feel lucky punk?” speech again.  He’ll give the white serial killer the same chance he gave the black bank robber – give up the gun and go to jail, or reach for it and maybe get your head blown off, maybe not, depending on how many bullets are left in the old hand cannon.

Compare the looks that Harry gives to the black bank robber and the white serial killer.  Harry laughs when the bank robber gives up.  It’s almost like he and the robber played a game of chess.  The robber was out to get some quick cash and now he’s been subdued so Harry could give a shit now.

But look at the look Harry gives the white killer.  The white killer’s actions have been way worse.  He’s killed innocents throughout the film, even a young boy.  Harry will do the right thing if the killer gives up, but the look on his face tells us he really, really, really hopes the killer will make a move so he can be blown away.

That’s my take on it, anyway.  There’s a universal standard of right and wrong and Harry doesn’t carry who you are, what you look like, or what color your skin is.  If you’re breaking the law, beware the .44.

Civil rights abuses and police brutality were hot topics of the 1970s just as they are today.  Harry is constantly reamed out by police brass and attorneys who, almost in a quasi-parody way, care more about the rights of the accused than the victims.

The irony is that, at least in this film anyway, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Harry only walks right up to the line of a civil rights abuse, but doesn’t really dive in feet first as he’s often accused of doing.  There’s a fourteen year old girl who’s been buried alive and her air is running out.  Realizing there’s no time for the suspect to consult his requested lawyer, Harry steps on the killer’s open leg wound and demands to know where the girl is.  Abusive?  Yes.  Against the law?  Sure.  Understandable?  Hell yes, especially if you’re the girl or her family.

Perhaps a cop’s life isn’t filled with as much cartoonish violence but even so, cops are forced to make split second decisions all the time.  Sometimes they’re right.  Sometimes they’re wrong.  The desk chair warmers love to chew Harry out and demand that he take down bad guys in a nicer, gentler manner, and constantly to take Harry’s badge, career and livelihood.

But you, the viewer, and Harry, share a secret.  You both know that Harry being off the force would be the brass’ worst nightmare, because then no one would be around to do all the dirty jobs that no one else wants to do.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Watch immediately.  I’m not gay or nothing but I wish I could have 1970’s Clint’s hair, figure and sunglasses.  I’d get non-stop beaver for sure.  Are we still allowed to call it beaver?  Someone call my lawyer.

Tagged , , ,

What Can the Dirty Harry Movie Series Teach Us About Today’s Political Issues?

Go ahead, 3.5 readers.  Make my day.

So, I haven’t even seen the new Bruce Willis remake of “Death Wish” yet but I have become obsessed with 1970s films in which a hand canon wielding tough guy guns down assorted crooks, delinquents, reprobates and bad guys with reckless abandon.

After watching the original “Death Wish” with Charles Bronson, I turned my attention to the Dirty Harry series with Clint Eastwood and marveled at the awesomeness of these movies.

So, throughout, well, this week, maybe this month, I don’t know how long, I’ll be posting a review of each Dirty Harry film and/or a discussion of the main political issue it raises.

Every new generation always thinks they are the first to think about an issue but as we see in these movies, people have long been thinking about everything from police brutality, civil rights and women in the workforce.

On the surface to the uninitiated, to someone who has sort of heard of these movies, maybe saw a clip, but never really studied them, does Dirty Harry come off as a cro magnon, macho chauvinist pig who wields a massive revolver as an extension of his penis as he scoffs at women’s abilities, executes minorities and basically serves as porn for suburban honky males who daydream that one day they’ll get to use their unnecessary gun collection on a criminal?

Well…I mean, yeah, if you haven’t really watched these films then ok, I can see why you might think that.

However, take my hand, 3.5 readers, for over the course of this series of posts, I’ll explain to you how (sit down for this) Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan was (I know you’re skeptical) one of the great civil rights advocates/champion for all the downtrodden and abused people of all races of his time.

I know.  It’s going to take some convincing but I’ll try my best to make the case.


Tagged , ,