Not Quite The Banger To End The Series, But A Solid Entry Nonetheless
I've never been the biggest Dirty Harry fan. In fact, I think I've only ever seen the first one once in its entirety. While I do own the collection, I really really love Sudden Impact, and that's the one I tend to revisit the most. I think Eastwood, as director in his only directing gig in the franchise, just knocked it out of the park with that one. While Sudden Impact mostly tends to play out as a revenge-thriller rather than the type of film we had grown accustomed to with the first 3 entries, that doesn't negate any of the enjoyment factor, because it's such a cool flick all around.
Of all the Dirty Harry flicks, The Dead Pool was the least enjoyable for me, and much like the first one, I think I've only ever seen it once. I just couldn't connect with it. There was a lot I didn't like about it, and most of my gripes have to do with stunt coordinator Buddy Van Horn (Pink Cadillac) as director. It's just kind of lifeless and stale. There's no style, no sizzle, no cool retro factor, unlike Sudden Impact, which is shocking considering it's a late 80's detective thriller. It's all very plain and dry, never once giving off any kind of aesthetics so to speak. Van Horn chooses to direct rather simply, with lots of handheld cameras, and it's worse during the action sequences. I don't know about you, but how a film is directed plays a big part in my enjoyment of it; the visuals, editing, camerawork. And I've always considered this one the least visually pleasing entry in the series. But, my Instagram buddy The Movie Cave encouraged me to give it another try, and I have to admit, I'm glad that he did.
I don't know if it was just because I was in the mood for this kind of film, but I really enjoyed it more this time around. All the little things that annoyed me before, like the lackluster direction, didn't bother me so much. I mean, they're still there and I still noticed them, but they weren't as big an issue as before. And I have to admit, I never really noticed the horror angle before, yet fully appreciated it this time around. I loved that so much of the story was centered around the production of a low-budget horror film called Hotel Satan, directed by the gloriously arrogant Liam Neeson of all people. It definitely added a lot of flavor to the film overall, and seeing Guns N' Roses, who had just exploded into the mainstream with their album Appetite for Destruction, in a few scenes was quite the added bonus. Did I mention we're also treated to a very young Jim Carrey as a strung out drug-addicted rock star named Johnny Squares, who does a terrible lip-syncing job to Welcome to the Jungle in his first dramatic role? Yea, The Dead Pool has it all.
In this film, Harry takes on a new partner in the form of Al Quan, played wonderfully by veteran television actor Evan C. Kim, who sadly never got the recognition he deserved, and this new dynamic (having a partner of Asian decent), really makes the film all the better. It's a shame Kim never got bigger and better roles after this. He was quite good and so damn charming. With the exception of one appearance in an episode of JAG in 2004, he hasn't acted in anything since 1992. What a shame.
The Dead Pool, while quite ridiculous in some areas (the remote control car sequence has a lot of people divided), delivers the goods in an old fashioned way. It's a solid reminder of the kind of cop/thriller that we all love, while also giving us a solid dose of late 80's nostalgia. I still believe with all my heart that had Eastwood directed it himself, it would have been a far better film overall, but as it stands, it's enjoyable as hell. I really had a great time with it, and it just goes to show, your opinion can change, whether good or bad. It's not quite the banger we would have hoped for to end the franchise (some scenes definitely miss the mark due to Van Horns leisure approach), but it's not a bad one either. I still feel they had one more left in them, and imagining what they could have done with it in the 90's would have really been great. But oh well. We got what we got.
The entire Dirty Harry collection is currently streaming on HBO Max.