Monday, July 31, 2006

Dirty Harry

Clint Eastwood. Such an imposing figure. Tall, commanding, and mostly silent 'til that characteristic rasp whispers a threat. Westerns use sweeping landscapes to cast a larger than life uncertainty upon their subjects. Eastwood's films usually use this expanse to tackle morality and justice. Many times, the context of these westerns have analogues to our modern day struggles with morality and issues of law enforcement. So, it wasn't a stretch that Eastwood took on the role of Harry Callahan (although, I understand that Frank Sinatra was originally slated as the character!).

It's 1971. A raving lunatic is on a killing spree in San Francisco, taking on life each day until the mayor pays up. Harry takes to the case to tracking the killer and bringing him to justice. Well, kind of. Harry doesn't realize he's not in a western. There's no such thing as vigilante justice as a modern police inspector. But, who cares about Miranda rights? As Harry spits, "The law's crazy." You'd think so too after seeing it all through his eyes.

I'd forgotten how arresting this film is: smart, efficient directing that could only have been produced in the 70's. The acting is taut - some great supporting roles, and Andy Robinson is freakish as Scorpio, the manic maniac (makes Hannibal Lecter look like a kitty cat). The cinematography is gritty and predominantly POV, for maximum impact. It's got a great, albeit cliched by now, soundtrack. It's unfortunate that it became a franchise that spawned 4 sequels that all pale in comparison. Next up, The Eiger Sanction! "You've got to ask yourself a question: do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

4 out of 5 stars


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