Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mini-Review - "Dirty Harry" (1971)


Watching this Clint Eastwood crime thriller, I can see the influence this movie has had on cinema, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s. Every buddy cop film since then, such as the "Lethal Weapon" series or "Speed," has had one cop who doesn't play by anyones rules, always seems to be a day from getting his badge taken away, but he'll be damned if he doesn't get results. The impact of "Dirty Harry" can still be felt today, because who doesn't love watching a cop with his own sense of right and wrong?

While watching Harry track down the Scorpio Killer, a man who enjoys killing and doesn't seem to care about the money, I was reminded of "No Country For Old Men," and how the criminal mind was beginning to evolve to the point of cruelty and inhumanity. That would could not understand it, thus making the fight against crime seem pointless.

I think Harry is beginning to understand that as well, while he watches Scorpio injure himself so that the public would hate the cops and get him a better chance in court. That using the law and justice to stop these criminals wouldn't be enough, as they would find a way around it and continue their spree. In fact, they're not even criminals, but mad men. Operating outside of the law is the one true way to stop a mad man.

Harry says at one point that he doesn't know why he keeps being a detective, when he keeps doing the dirty work and getting into trouble for it. But by the end, he knows that the world has changed, but it is certainly worth fighting for.

"Dirty Harry" also has great use of negative space, as in knowing when to use darkness to illuminate a scene. Many scenes will have Harry chasing down "punks" in the middle of the night through the darkened streets of San Francisco, where we'll often see two figures enter the darkness, but rarely see what happens until another figure exits. This heightens suspense and adds to the mystery of crime in this city.

I now understand why "Dirty Harry" is so talked about - beyond the impact it has had on cinema, it is great cinematography and world that is as intriguing as it is mysterious. Clint Eastwood plays the role much like his Man With No Name in Sergio Leone's Dollar Trilogy, a cowboy who has never seen the inside of a courtroom, while still being compassionate for human life. A great thriller that has aged well.

Final Grade: A-

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