The fourth installment of the Dirty Harry pentalogy brings the character into the 80s. Luckily for him nothing much has changed and a movie about a trigger happy cop enforcing some police brutality on scumbags was still considered politically correct back then. After all these years Harry is still working homicide and occasionally taking justice in his own hands. Even the threats of assigning him to traffic are still uttered by his superiors. Not that Harry really cares as in the first act we see him take out a couple of robbers holding up his regular cafeteria, giving a crime boss a heart attack at his daughter’s wedding by convincing him he has solid evidence against him and Harry gets in several shoot outs. It takes four incidents and an out-of-town lead on a case he is working to make him skip town for a couple of weeks. That’s Harry; not even a hit-squad scares him. Read more
I’m wondering if Harry Callahan sometimes walks into the wrong department at the precinct because he’s constantly assigned to different tasks. Whenever he defuses a situation by using his trademark brute force he’s being assigned to traffic or desk-duty like personnel. This also occurs in the third Dirty Harry movie titled The Enforcer. During a brief demotion to personnel he meets his latest partner: Kate Moore. She’s being put up for promotion after several years working for the human resources department on the simple fact that she’s a woman and that doesn’t sit well with Harry. Together they must try to locate a terrorist organization called the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force (P.R.S.F.) who are responsible for multiple murders, break-ins and eventually kidnap the mayor of San Francisco.
Dirty Harry was an original movie which became the inspiration for a lot of other cop movies, but the one it inspired the most was its own sequel which really finalizes the, what I would like to call, “Dirty Harry” template. It takes all the cues from the original and expands on them, uses them as a self-referential on occasion and throws in a couple of elements it borrows from other cop movies. In an era when Hollywood wasn’t busy churning out franchise after franchise a sequel was kind of rare. Dirty Harry got its sequel in the form of Magnum Force, a movie which doesn’t even have a title linking it to the previous movie just like the James Bond franchise was doing for more than ten years already when this movie was released.
When watching Dirty Harry it occurred to me that the 70s was an era when the tone of most movies was cold and bleak. The most famous movies from that era are stark and tackle serious topics. The Deer Hunter, Serpico, Taxi Driver, Death Wish and even Rocky are examples of movies that have a bleak, urban feel to them. Despite being set in sunny San Francisco Dirty Harry is also a movie which at heart is as gritty as the aforementioned examples.
Why Mr. Kersey? Why do you keep on trying to have a normal relationship with a woman when for twenty years now every woman you had an onscreen relationship with, save for the reporter in Death Wish 2, has been raped and/or murdered? Hooking up with you is a death sentence to these women and often also to their daughters. Yet you keep on getting romantically involved with women. You are a bad person Mr. Kersey. My advice to you would be to start living a secluded life, but I’m sure that even living remotely, deep within the woods you will come across people murdering the squirrel you feed every day leaving you to no other choice that to pick up a gun since the authorities have no grounds for prosecution.
The best scene of fourth entry in the seemingly never ending Death Wish series is right at the beginning. In a wonderfully shot scene full of suspense and mystery a young woman is raped by three men wearing panties in a parking garage when suddenly a man dressed in black appears from the shadows. When the rapists yell “who are you?” to the unknown assailant he slyly responds with “death” before unloading his gun on them. It’s Paul Kersey of course in a scene which turns out to be a dream sequence. Apparently all the years of vigilantism have taken a toll on Kersey who seems to have some issues with his previous occupation. Sadly this will be the only time the movie will delve into the psyche of Kersey as he’s running around killing drug dealers and drug lords for the remainder of the movie.
These past few years we have been given a bunch of Expendables movies and we were witnesses to Liam Neeson becoming an action star in his late 50s. What most of us don’t realize is that 30 years earlier the same thing happened with Charles Bronson. Bronson was a character actor who appeared in a lot of movies, but none of them were action flicks like we know them today. The original Death Wish was more a drama infused with a political message than a straight up action movie. It was raw and gritty like other movies with an urban setting released in the 70s. Serpico, Taxi Driver and even Rocky come to mind in terms of atmosphere and low-key approach to the material. When the low budget movie studio Cannon bought the rights to Death Wish they immediately started churning out sequels that were more exploitative and action oriented, making Charles Bronson an action star competing with names like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the box-office. The only difference being that Bronson was already in his sixties when he starred in a movie like Death Wish 3
One of the more original aspects of the iconic vigilante movie “Death Wish” was that the revenge-motivated Paul Kersey never actually went after the people responsible for murdering his wife and rendering his daughter catatonic. They kick-started his transformation from the soft liberal to the stone cold killer, but they never paid for their crimes. This is the most obvious change of the sequel Death Wish 2 in which Kersey goes directly after the men responsible for raping and murdering his housekeeper and daughter.
The tale of revenge is as old as story telling itself and never seems to grow stale. It’s an easy set-up for a solid movie if handled correctly and taps directly into our basic primal thoughts. Especially people living in countries where no man is guilty until proven otherwise, the sense of incompetence of the judicial system is one everybody is familiar with. The pedophile who abused a couple of kids but can’t be put in jail because there is no evidence is probably one of the most infuriating examples. It is because of these real life situations we can all relate to movies like Death Wish all though in reality we probably won’t go out on the street walking around with a loaded gun on our own waiting to be mugged like Paul Kersey does. Not even the guys who constantly post pictures on Facebook stating violent macho comments about what they will do to people who hurt their child or any other family member.
What would a year be without at least one movie by Keoni Waxman starring Steven Seagal? Since 2012 they have been making one movie per year, and with 2009’s The Keeper and A Dangerous Man this marks their sixth collaboration on a movie. I won’t be too surprised if 2016 would give us another collaboration. But first it’s 2015’s “Absolution”. There is something goofy going on with the title as varies from “Absolution” (the general title) to Mercenary Absolution (the title on DVD covers) and “The Mercenary: Absolution” which was the actual title on the opening credits. How hard is it to get at least the title straight?