A dead pool is being bet on by numerous peoples from a list of celebrities. When a few of these celebrities end up dead, Detective Harry Callahan begins to work on the case. Soon, he finds that he is a part of this dead list.
The final installment in the Dirty Harry franchise throws a new twist into the Harry Callahan story. For a change, someone Harry brings to justice is actually sentenced to prison. Lou Genero, a mafia boss was found guilty of his crimes and suddenly Harry finds himself a media hero. The press wants to do interviews and one newswoman even wants to do a feature story on Harry Callahan: Hero. During dinner he is asked for autographs by two men who are excited he has cleaned up the streets.
He still finds his superiors holding him back, this time for his “own protection”, as Genero has ordered a hit on him from his jail cell. Harry is the target for the mob, in much the same secondary storyline from Sudden Impact, and must dodge the hitmen while investigating the latest series of murders. That might be an area for complaint in a regular sequel, but this is Dirty Harry and there are a number of things expected to be repeated by fans of the franchise. How these tasks are carried out determines the quality of the movies.
We get the typical Dirty Harry breaking up a robbery attempt. This is a lesser addition to the franchise thanks to the fact that it is thrown in Harry’s lap. In Dirty Harry, he notices something amiss and knows the robbery is in motion before the gunshots ever ring out. In Sudden Impact, he is tipped off to it by the waitress. In Dead Pool, a man is shot through the window of a restaurant and Harry is thrown into the action unexpectedly. However, it allows him to deliver one of his trademark quips, “You’re shit out of luck.” Then, as with the previous movies we get the sole survivor.
This brings me to a problem I have with all the Dirty Harry movies. It seems there is a stereotypical view of minorities throughout all the films. In Sudden Impact, I couldn’t get around the jive talk language used by Horace and in The Dead Pool we get a new partner, the Chinese-American Al Quan. When Quan is assigned to be Harry’s partner, it is because it would be good publicity to team hero Harry up with a Chinese-American officer. After the restaurant gun battle, one man escapes and Quan uses extensive eye-popping martial arts to kick the suspect’s butt. It’s just insulting.
What makes this movie rise above the rest as arguably the best Dirty Harry movie since the first is the style of the murders. The Dead Pool is a betting pool where a number of people create a list of celebrities and whoever has the most picks die within the year wins the pot. The first man to die is the lead singer of a rock band with serious drug problems. That scene was just magnificent and had me smiling from start to finish. First, the singer, Johnny Squares, was played by an unknown actor named “James” Carey. Carey had appeared in Once Bitten and Peggy Sue Got Married prior to this, but he was still nowhere near as popular as he would become in later years. Watching him lip synch the Guns n Roses song Welcome to the Jungle in a schlocky horror movie was just a highlight of the film.
I also was excited when I saw Axel Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler at the funeral for Squares. This was 1988 and Guns n Roses were just as unknown as “James” Carey was at the time. Later in the film, Slash got to shoot a giant harpoon gun for a scene in the horror movie within the movie. As a fan of the band, that was a nice touch.
However, what remains the true highlight of the movie is the big chase scene. This was no typical car chase, but instead a type of parody or homage to the classic car chase in Bullitt, as both Dirty Harry’s car and the car in pursuit would leap over the steep hills in the breathtaking chase sequence. Did I mention, Harry was being chased by a radio control (RC) car? Yeah, it was a little toy car, rigged with explosives, and it chased Harry and Quan through the streets of San Francisco. It was strange and one of the most brilliant sequences I have ever seen.
The acting in this film was a huge improvement over the prior film Sudden Impact. Where Sudden Impact had a lesser female counterpart to Dirty Harry, The Dead Pool featured Patricia Clarkson in one of her first roles, showing the talent that would make her a future Oscar nominated actress. Liam Neeson pulled off a great performance as an egotistical horror movie director who is one of the men Harry involved in The Dead Pool. Quan is played by Evan C. Kim, a little known actor who lent a very loose, laid back and funny personality to the character. For a change, everyone carried their roles to great success.
The Dead Pool is one of the best Dirty Harry movies in the series, behind only the original. The great acting, entertaining storyline and wonderfully quirky scenes (Jim Carey’s cameo and the chase scene are highlights) makes this movie an easy recommendation. You also get the scenes you have come to expect from a Dirty Harry movie. This was a fantastic final chapter for the wonderful character.
There is a commentary track with producer David Valdes and cinematographer Jack N. Green. The two share a really good conversation and there is rarely a quiet moment. They are interesting and provide great information throughout the film.
The Craft of Dirty Harry is a technical look at the creation of the Dirty Harry movies. They talk about the cinematographers, editors and music composers. It is a fairly interesting yet somewhat dry feature that clocks in at around 22 minutes.
Trailers for every Dirty Harry movie round out the special features.