Also known as: Dirty Harry IV (working title)
Release Date: December 8th, 1983 (Houston premiere)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Joseph Stinson, Earl E. Smith, Charles B. Pierce
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Albert Popwell, Jack Thibeau
The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 117 Minutes
“Listen, punk. To me you’re nothin’ but dogshit, you understand? And a lot of things can happen to dogshit. It can be scraped up with a shovel off the ground. It can dry up and blow away in the wind. Or it can be stepped on and squashed. So take my advice and be careful where the dog shits ya!” – ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan
So how does Dirty Harry hold up four films deep?
Not so well.
I feel that it’s pretty obvious that the franchise waited too long between the third and fourth films and maybe they should’ve just left the series a trilogy. Coming out in the ’80s, this movie loses its gritty ’70s vibe. Now that didn’t necessarily have to happen, as the Death Wish sequels were pretty solid, especially the second and third films.
This one just took some missteps.
To start, the opening credits have more of an ’80s poppy jazzy tune, which immediately changes the series’ aesthetic.
Additionally, the bulk of the film takes place outside of San Francisco. Seeing Harry fight scumbags in a small California coastal town just isn’t as cool or exciting.
I also didn’t like the story. I mean, it was okay in that it followed a woman trying to get revenge on the pieces of shit that raped her and her sister but the film was really dragged out for too long and the story just couldn’t pick up the momentum it needed.
As far of as the positives, this film does have my favorite scene in the series that doesn’t involve Harry using a gun. It’s the same scene that I quoted to kick off this review.
Also, I really liked Harry’s gun in this film: an AMP Auto Mag Model 180. Ever since seeing this film, as a kid, I wanted to one day own one of these just because of how cool, gigantic and badass it looked. Although, it falls behind the ridiculous Wildey Hunter .475 Magnum that Charles Bronson used in the incredible Death Wish 3.
Apart from those two things, the only other real positive takeaway is the finale. It’s a bit underwhelming, if I’m being honest, but that moment where Harry appears in silhouette on the carnival boardwalk still gives me chills. It’s absolutely one of the best “I just came here to fuck shit up” moments in motion picture history.
Sadly, though, this film doesn’t live up to the Dirty Harry name and feels more like an Eastwood picture that could’ve just existed on its own.
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.