Dirty Harry Shows a Little Soul
"Dirty Harry" was a great movie; it gave us the iconic character of 'Dirty' Harry Callahan and a pretty decent storyline about a serial killer. Now in a way it would have been right to stop there, one really good movie and move on but as is too often the case "Dirty Harry" spawned a series of sequels and sadly none of them matched up to the power, the action and the intrigue which the first movie delivered so perfectly. The first of these sequels was "Magnum Force" which is a game of two halves, on one side you have Clint Eastwood delivering another bravo performance as 'Dirty' Harry Callahan but then on the other you have a slightly disappointing storyline. And the storyline is disappointing because 90% of it is actually quite obvious with basically one solitary twist ending up catching you by surprise. If it had managed to keep you guessing more than it did then maybe "Magnum Force" would have been on par with "Dirty Harry" but sadly it ends up as being slightly inferior.
Having been reassigned to stakeout duty with a new partner 'Dirty' Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood - High Plains Drifter) is less than impressed and can't stop himself from sticking his nose into and investigation despite the reprimands of his superior officer, Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook - Wall Street). But when it becomes clear that there is someone going around killing the top San Francisco criminals Callahan finds himself on the case and what he discovers is closer to home that he could ever have imagined.
One of the things which made "Dirty Harry" so good was that it took an almost regular crime storyline and spiced it up with the violence which Callahan dished out to get his man. And to be honest "Magnum Force" is similar as we have the storyline of high profile criminals getting bumped off and Callahan bending the rules as he investigates. But there is something missing and it's sort of the personal aspect as it only ever feels like Callahan is doing his job this time around rather than having a personal vendetta against those he suspects of the murders.
But that is not the only problem and the major one is that despite trying to build a layer of intrigue as there are various people who could be the murderers it doesn't take a genius who is behind the killings. Oh there is one twist which catches you by surprise and switches things around a bit but other than that solitary twist you sort of end up watching knowing who Harry will end up facing when the big action climax comes.
Now when it comes to that action, well it is as violent as "Dirty Harry" and probably has more action without ruining the balance with the storyline. But because it never feels personal there is an edge to the violence and action which is missing, you don't feel like Harry is hurting those he is after out of revenge and it ends up making it a little ordinary. It is still spectacular with some memorable action scenes many of which are followed by a clever more dramatic scene such as the shooting competition scene or the letter box bomb scene. But there aren't those iconic moments which stay with you, like in "Dirty Harry" with Callahan standing on the bridge.
Despite these niggles with the action and story one thing is for certain and Clint Eastwood once more delivers a brilliant performance as 'Dirty' Harry Callahan. All the smart ass attitude is amusing and the ultra cool way he deals with a crime he stumbles on is still basically cool, although the actual crime, a plane hijacking, is a bit ridiculous. Even though the vendetta side of thing seems to be toned down he still has this power about him that you don't want to mess with him. Basically Eastwood is the best thing about "Magnum Force" and even the sexing up of Callahan as a bit of a babe magnet kind of works.
Actually the acting all round is actually good in "Magnum Force" with Hal Holbrook maybe playing the almost cliche Lt. Neil Briggs who dislikes Callahan but he makes him more because there is a sense of intrigue about him as to why he dislikes Callahan so much. And the rest of the cast which includes David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and Kip Niven as hot shot rookies are just as impressive, creating that same sense of mystery and intrigue.
What this all boils down to is that "Magnum Force" whilst being a good movie is not up to the standard of "Dirty Harry". Unsurprisingly Clint Eastwood is the best thing about this first sequel as he slides back into character with ease and the rest of the cast are just as good especially Hal Holbrook and David Soul. But sadly they are let down by a storyline which other than one twist is very obvious.