The Dead Pool (1988)

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*. This is the last of the Dirty Harry films — at least until the inevitable franchise re-set comes along — and things have gotten very meta. Harry is famous now, making the cover of magazines and having strangers asking for his autograph. The Dead Pool is a movie primarily about celebrity and the media, with the two major supporting characters being a television reporter and a film director.
*. Meta was the direction everything was moving in at the time, but even so a lot of fans consider this to be the worst Dirty Harry movie, I think because they like their Harry neat. I can see where they’re coming from, but I still find this movie, as silly as it is, a lot more interesting than The Enforcer, which is my pick for the worst entry in the franchise.
*. A lot of what you think or how you feel about The Dead Pool comes down to the car chase scene, in which Harry is pursued by a radio-controlled model car armed with a bomb. Some people find it ridiculous and out of place. Others see it as a witty and lively way of re-imagining a tired convention by way of a humorous homage to the chase scene in Bullitt.

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*. Personally, I like it. I think it works well in context and shows some imagination. But if you think it’s just stupid and is only evidence of a tired franchise’s final descent into absurdity and self-mockery I know what you’re saying. I don’t think The Dead Pool is a very serious movie.
*. I did have a small problem with the chase scene. It just didn’t seem credible to me that someone could operate a model car by remote control and drive his own car at high speed through the streets of San Francisco. That would be a lot harder than texting while driving, in a far more demanding context. But I was able to suspend my disbelief.
*. In my notes on Magnum Force I mentioned how Pauline Kael’s review of that movie foreshadowed concerns about movie violence that would become more prominent with the advent of the slasher horror film. The sexual angle of Magnum Force was another connection in this regard, equating sex with danger and death. Following up on this, it’s interesting to note how the movie being made here, Hotel Satan, appears to be a kind of slasher horror film, and that the final kill of the deranged bad guy is a page ripped right out of the Friday the 13th franchise. In fact I’m pretty sure Jason pinned at least one of his victim’s to the wall with a harpoon gun, though I’ll never remember which movie it was now.

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*. Once again Harry is not the instigator in starting a romantic relationship. I’m not sure why Eastwood insisted on presenting Harry this way, with women always coming on to him and not the other way around. Apparently female fans told him they wanted him to do it like this. In any event, in this film Samantha (Patricia Clarkson) uses her leverage to score dinner with him, which leads to other things. That’s life when you’re such a stud.
*. I hadn’t seen this movie since it came out and was surprised to hear Guns N’ Roses being used as the music for the “James” Carrey music video. I thought this movie was too early for them, but apparently they were the hot new act that Warner Bros. music wanted to hitch on to this property for cross-promotional purposes. The band were Dirty Harry fans as well, and appear in a couple of cameos where they don’t seem that out of place even in their distinctive wardrobe.
*. In my notes on the movie Happy Birthday to Me I mocked the jock who gets crushed trying to lift a light weight that he can’t handle. I could do the same here with Evan C. Kim’s Al Quan, who is dying after doing five reps at 20 pounds (two ten pound plates) on the incline press. If you note in the background, however, everyone else in the gym has their machine at the lowest setting (a single plate). There’s actually a reason for this, as over multiple takes they didn’t want anyone to get tired and start to really struggle. That said, it’s a really bad look for Kim.
*. OK, so they didn’t end on a high note. However, I think you have to keep in mind that this was never a great series in the first place. Harry was a powerful iconic role, but really only the first movie was any good. The rest were cheap, quickly shot, formulaic, and didn’t show Harry’s character developing in any way. I suppose that’s part of his appeal — he’s an old school hero who will never change with the times — but a little was enough. Even three movies may have been too much.

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