Starring Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Sondra Locke
Director James Fargo, Clint Eastwood
“She wants to play lumberjack, she’s going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.” The way SFPD cop Harry Callahan sees it, there are already two strikes against a new partner, who’s a rookie and female. But Harry (Clint Eastwood) will see things differently as he and officer Kate Moore (Tyne Daly) take on homegrown terrorists in The Enforcer. Harry straps on his shoulder holster again for Sudden Impact, stalking a crime victim (Sondra Locke), whose murderous spree of revenge puts his own ideas of justice to the test. Harry’s iconic line underscores the tense excitement: “Go ahead, make my day.”
Some films transcend cinema to give the world a pithy or witty catchphrase. Star Wars had “May the Force be with you.” Mention The Poltergeist in any crowded room, and you’ll likely be assailed by a chorus of “They’re here!” Top Gun scrabbles in the bargain basement with “I feel the need, the need for speed.” And the Dirty Harry films have “Go ahead, make my day,” even though the phrase actually comes from Sudden Impact, which is the second-to-last film in the series — and definitely not the best of the bunch.
In fact, neither The Enforcer nor Sudden Impact are stellar films, though the over-the-top carnage makes them fun enough to make you forget about it and just enjoy the show.
In The Enforcer, Clint Eastwood’s hard-bitten, vaguely Republican Harry Callahan finds himself out of step with the changing times, times that are seeing women move into jobs that used to be the sole purview of men. When a money-hungry group of terrorists posing as revolutionaries kill Harry’s partner, he find himself saddled with a female rookie as his new partner. Inspector Moore has been promoted from the Records department; she’s never made an arrest, let alone worked the hard cases that are Callahan’s day-to-day. Tyne Daly’s Inspector Moore is wide-eyed and intense as only a rookie can be, and is convincingly overwhelmed by the events of her first days in the homicide department. Moore grows into her job over the course of the movie, creating a round character and a nice counterpoint for the flat, unchanging Harry Callahan.
Scuttlebutt has it that The Enforcer was originally intended to be the end of a trilogy — and it shows in everything from the way Harry watches the world progress without him, right up to the events of the last scene. It would have been a good, strong send-off for Harry and the Smith & Wesson .44 Mag that he made so famous. But still, the film is a ditzy, one-dimensional joyride full of Dirty Harry clichés; don’t expect more than that.
Compared to the shiny ’70s look of The Enforcer, Sudden Impact is a dark quasi film-noir, and an almost-homage to Hitchcock. Unfortunately, the movie is contrived and replete with stereotypes, as well as cringe-worthy comic relief in the form of a bulldog named Meathead. The Big Bad is a woman who was gang raped along with her sister ten years previous, and who has begun to execute the perpetrators. Or maybe it’s the perps, themselves. It’s kind of hard to tell. Any way, Harry gets into yet another argument with the brass over his cowboy ways and ends up being sent on vacation. While trying to stay out of trouble, Callahan meets the murderess, who turns out to be a famous painter by the name of Jennifer Spencer (played by Sondra Locke). Yet, though Harry is investigating the murders that Jennifer is committing, he never figures things out until the end, at which point he’s already romantically linked with her. This is either due to Harry getting on in years and starting to loose his well-developed cop senses, or to a false and rather silly screenplay. It’s likely the latter.
Crave Factor – 7
The Enforcer looks great. Colours are generally rich but not overblown, though there are a couple of spots where the skin tones are a little off. Blacks are good and lines are generally pretty crisp, aside from the occasional softness. Suffice it to say that the film looks really good for a 1970s-era movie, thanks to the high-def transfer. For Sudden Impact, it’s much of the same, though the overall darkness of the film sometimes gets in the way of detail. Darker scenes also show a little more grain than the brighter-lit action. Overall, the picture quality of both films is really nice.
Crave Factor – 7
Both films have benefited from the Blu-ray format, though not to the same degree. While Sudden Impact uses a surround sound system’s capabilities to offer sharp gunfire and ambient sound, The Enforcer takes less advantage of modern sound formats. That being said, the film’s sound is clear, with no one element overpowering the rest. Most importantly, the movie displays none of the tinny qualities that hamper so many films from the ’70s.
Crave Factor -7
The Enforcer boasts a half-hour featurette about violence in cinema, a lacklustre little piece called Harry Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special in Films, a very good commentary track by director James Fargo and trailers. Sudden Impact includes an interesting documentary about Clint Eastwood’s development as an actor and director, as well as a commentary track by noted film critic Richard Schickel.
Crave Factor – 5
Menu & Packaging
Menus and packaging are innocuous; not badly designed, but nothing to write home about.
Crave factor – 7
Conclusions & Final Thoughts
The Blu-ray treatment brings to both these films a new vitality, and though neither is a fantastic movie, both have something going for them. The Enforcer is definitely the better of the two, even if it features a scattered batch of evil lightweights in place of an honest-to-goodness Big Bad. Sudden Impact is generally lowbrow and kind of offensive in some spots, but you’re probably watching for the .44 action anyway.
If you love Eastwood and worship Dirty Harry, run out and buy these films. If not. One of your friends probably did. Go watch them at his place.