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USA 1971
Directed by
Don Siegel
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry is one of those films whose pop cultural status far outweighs its merits as a film. The former largely relies on Clint Eastwood’s laconic incarnation of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later San Francisco detective, Harry Callahan, who maintains a solitary commitment to taking down scum-of-the-earth. The scum in this instance is a psycho (Andy Robinson) who uses murder as a means of extorting money from City Hall.  

The first 20 minutes of Don Seigel’s film impresses as an efficient 70s style urban crime movie nicely scored by Lalo Schifrin with Harry foiling a bank robbery during his lunch hour and uttering the famous lines to one of the robbers looking down the barrel of his .44 Magnum, "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?". The general point that Harry disdains such panty-waisted indulgences as constitutional rights when it comes to getting the job done is well established as he brushes aside his more career-minded superiors.  Unfortunately thereafter the film settles down to being a fairly lamely plotted cat-and-mouse game between Harry and the psycho, well played by Robinson, an actor who largely disappeared into television thereafter.

With its Wild West sensibility (San Francisco is portrayed as reverting to its unruly beginnings) and righteous outsider hero Dirty Harry was an enormous popular hit (the role, which was originally intended  Frank Sinatra, catapulted Eastwood to star status) despite being criticized for its right-wing sensibilities and it spawned four more-of-the-same sequels: Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988) with Eastwood returning to play Dirty Harry in each but none being directed by Seigel.




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