Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brandon Peters returns! Brandon Peters dissects the Dirty Harry franchise V: The Dead Pool (1988)

The Dead Pool
Director:  Buddy Van Horn
Starring:  Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, Evan C. Kim
Rated R

Fuck with me, buddy, I'll kick your ass so hard you'll have to unbutton your collar to shit.
                        ~Harry Callahan

Dirty Harry returns to the screen one last time in 1988’s The Dead Pool.  Director by another Eastwood “Yes, man”, longtime Eastwood stunt coordinator Buddy Van Horn delivers an adventure that finds the perfect medium between a film like Magnum Force and Sudden Impact. The film boasts likely the most familiar, big name cast of the series.  However, in 1988, this cast was much a bunch of nobodies.  Liam Neeson and Patricia Clarkson had minimalist film experience and were bouncing around television guest spots prior to The Dead Pool.  Jim Carrey (then going by James), was much of nothing then.  He was up and coming in a few films, but this was likely his first major and dramatic venture.  And its not like these were star making or star turning roles for them either.  Most were still years off from making a splash.

The story appears at first as a murder mystery you can play along with, but is really a police drama in which you follow the detectives in discovering the solution.  At first this could appear to be a cheat (like Friday the 13th), but the clues are spread and there to give this killer some weight.  Eastwood said he liked the hub-bub of getting caught up in a Hollywood-related mystery with colorful subjects that you want to pin guilt on and in reality it ends up just being a Joe-Nobody.  He claims through his research that this is how most police mysteries turned up.  When I watched this as a young lad, I felt like maybe I missed something, but through the many times I've returned to this film, its pretty clear and actually somewhat creepy that the police in this story are way off the trail of this killer a majority of the running time and he is out and freely continuing his mission.

For the most part, the film is pretty much a paint-by-numbers directing job.  However, the key piece of the film is a car chase between Harry and a remote control car armed with a bomb.  It sounds silly, but it’s rather engaging and extremely entertaining.  I’d even go as far as to say it may be the most notable car chase and action scene in the entire series.  It’s a lot of fun.

Harry’s partner survives this time around.  He’s one who’s got all the predisposed info about Harry’s partners and follows what to do to a T.  He also brings some great charm and humor to the part.  Quan is constantly delivering disturbing one-liners at crime scenes with such innocence and a lighthearted tone, its pretty funny.  Harry is also visibly disturbed by it.  There's also plenty of inside baseball humor regarding the movie industry and forcing different races into police movies just for the sake of diversity.  I’m going to go as far as saying that the character of Al Quan is Harry’s most well rounded, fun, memorable and best partner in the entire franchise.

The film is nowhere near as gritty as the last two and its not as comical as the fourth.  But The Dead Pool finds a fine line and becomes a smart piece of popcorn entertainment.  It brings thrills, suspense, laughs and delivers on action movie goods.  Its not too dark or serious to turn off some more mainstream film goers and is far from dopey mindless action.  I highly recommend the first film to people, but if someone isn’t sheen on 70s cinema, this one might work.  The Dead Pool is a hell of a good time.  It sends Harry Callahan out on a very high note.  And like every film previous, it sends him out, with helicopter shot, leaving an area surrounded by a large body of water.

Up Next:  Ranking the Dirty Harry Franchise

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