Film Review: Sudden Impact (1983)

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

Review:

“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.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

Film Review: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Shane Black
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Ed O’Ross, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau, Renée Estevez (uncredited – Director’s Cut)

Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes, 117 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh

Since there have been rumblings, once again, about Lethal Weapon 5, I was reminded that I haven’t really watched the original film in quite awhile. So, since I have the DVD box set, I figured that I’d give them all a rewatch and a review.

I actually forgot how dark this first film was in regards to Martin Riggs’ depression and suicidal thoughts. Sure, I remember that part of the story but I see a lot more layers with it now, as an adult that has dealt with depression his entire life and many of the experiences and thoughts that come with it. I can also relate to the loss and grief that Riggs felt over his wife’s death, as I lost someone very close to me, which had me in a similar head space for a few years.

As a kid and a teen, I don’t think I understood the real depth of Riggs’ despair and I also didn’t fully understand how this is a movie about a broken man finding something to live for and that he is essentially adopted by a family that grows to love him as one of their own. And honestly, I’m not sure if Shane Black’s script meant to take it that deep but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover add so much to their roles and this story, emotionally, that lesser actors couldn’t have achieved this on quite the same level with this much human emotion.

That being said, the film is really about a man emerging from absolute darkness and finding his way in the world again. And while this isn’t the main plot thread of the sequels, it helped to establish the bond between Riggs and Murtaugh so well, that the emotions and connections in this film created such a strong foundation that it made the camaraderie in the sequels natural and frankly, easy.

The movie is an action comedy, despite the really heavy emotional stuff, and within that, it has a great balance between the darker stuff and its lighthearted playfulness. It’s also full of badass action and just makes me wish that Hollywood could still make pictures like this that are this good.

Action comedies in the modern era just don’t hit the right notes. You can’t compare any of those Kevin Hart buddy action comedies to the Lethal Weapon films and that’s not a knock against the talented Hart, I think it is just a product of the times we live in and their contrast to what the 1980s (and ’90s) were.

A lot of the credit has to go to Richard Donner, who was on his A-game as a director in the ’80s, as well as producer Joel Silver, a man that was involved with some of the most iconic films of all-time, especially in this era and the action genre.

But it all really comes back to the greatness that is the pairing of Gibson and Glover. They’re bond and their banter is absolute perfection. You buy into what they’re selling and they feel like they’re your friends too. On top of that, Glover’s family is great and they make the scenes they share with the two leads pretty special.

While the actual plot dealing with the crime element in the film is a bit thin, it’s still interesting and it also brings in great performances from Gary Busey, Tom Atkins and the grossly underappreciated Mitchell Ryan. I also love seeing and hearing Al Leong actually speak in this beyond just being a voiceless henchman.

On top of all that, the action sequences are superb, the stunts are fantastic and this is a movie that still packs a punch and is just as exciting as it was over thirty years ago.

Lethal Weapon is a stupendous film. It has the greatest tandem in buddy cop movie history and it has aged tremendously well.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s buddy action movies.

Film Review: Action Jackson (1988)

Release Date: February 12th, 1988
Directed by: Craig R. Baxley
Written by: Robert Reneau
Music by: Herbie Hancock, Michael Kamen
Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone, Thomas F. Wilson, Robert Davi, Bill Duke, Jack Thibeau, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Al Leong, Sonny Landham, Mary Ellen Trainor

Lorimar Film Entertainment, Silver Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[turning a flamethrower on a bad guy] How do you like your ribs?” – Action Jackson

This was a film that was supposed to be the first in a franchise. That never happened and that could be due to the film being critically panned and for it being absolutely ridiculous and the type of cheese that induces a wee bit of cringe. But I still dig the hell out of Carl Weathers in this and it was cool seeing him step out from behind more famous action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But this also was born from Weathers’ involvement in the Schwarzenegger starring Predator, as he and producer Joel Silver loved blaxploitation flicks. Silver told Weathers to come up with something and its that idea that became the basis for this film.

The plot is pretty simple, Jericho “Action” Jackson is a no nonsense cop that loves the ladies and hates yuppie scum that kills and destroys for their own selfish, greedy means. In this film, the scum is played by Coach star Craig T. Nelson. And we even get to see Coach do some kung fu trickery.

Similar to a Bond film and other films with macho gun wielding heroes, there are two hot chicks. In this we get a very young Sharon Stone, just before she reached superstardom, as well as Vanity, who was super popular at the time due to her relationship with Prince. We also get boobage from both, which from my perspective, is a strong plus.

But this film is also like a who’s who of cool character actors from the era. We get Bill Duke, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Robert Davi, Thomas F. Wilson, Sonny Landham, Chino “Fats” Williams and ’80s action star/stuntman Al Leong.

Add in a sweet score by Herbie Hancock and you’ve just got a cool motion picture.

Overall, this is an action heavy film but it was the ’80s and all we really wanted back then was good, high octane, power fantasy escapism. You know, back in the day before that stuff was frowned upon and deemed as toxic masculinity, politically incorrect and insensitive. You know, back when people were happier and most of us got along regardless of political or social affiliation.

I really do enjoy the action in this and while it can be an ’80s cheeseball extravaganza in parts, who really gives a shit? Action Jackson actually drives a Ferrari-like supercar into Coach’s mansion, up the stairs and then smashes it through his bedroom door for the big final fight. Is that dumb? Of course it is! But that’s the appeal, people!

I can’t say that this has aged well but it might not have aged well in its current year. It’s noticeably more corny than similar films but I do like the humor, its lightheartedness and its insanity.

Action Jackson isn’t an ’80s action magnum opus by any means but it was a pretty enthralling and amusing flick with Carl Weathers being a badass, Craig T. Nelson being an evil shithead and lots of other actors that were at the height of cool at the time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Cobra, Lethal Weapon, The Last Dragon, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Firewalker and Hurricane Smith.

Film Review: The Hitcher (1986)

Release Date: January 17th, 1986 (Victoria, Texas premiere)
Directed by: Robert Harmon
Written by: Eric Red
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jeffrey DeMunn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Thibeau

HBO Pictures, Silver Screen Partners, TriStar Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“[Picking up the hitchhiker] My mother told me to never do this.” – Jim Halsey

I’ve been on this Rutger Hauer kick, lately. Maybe it’s because I watched Blade Runner for the 214th time a week ago and then introduced a friend to Hobo With a Shotgun, a few days later. I don’t know, but it made me want to go back and re-experience The Hitcher, as it’s been quite a long while since I’ve seen it.

The plot to this is real simple, C. Thomas Howell’s Jim picks up a hitchhiker (Hauer) in the Texas desert. Immediately, it is apparent that this stranger is a psycho. Things escalate and Jim actually knocks the hitchhiker out of his moving vehicle. The rest of the film is about the hitchhiker hunting him and going on a violent killing spree where he is framing Jim for the crimes. It’s a psychotic game of cat and mouse and in certain ways, reminds me of Steven Spielberg’s Duel. Except Duel was a TV movie and very tame compared to the level of violence the Rutger Hauer character brings to this film.

The movie also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, a pretty backwoods waitress that gets caught up in the proceedings because she fancies Jim, and Jeffrey DeMunn, as the only reasonable cop in the entire movie.

This movie almost feels like a horror movie but is really just a very effective thriller. However, as a kid, I was more scared of villains in films like this and Sly Stallone’s Cobra than monsters like Freddy or Jason. These types of psychos were real and existed in the world that I actually lived in.

The Hitcher is an intense movie and that might be an understatement. It kicks off with a severe level of discomfort in the opening scene and never gives you a break. It is 90-plus minutes of a young man being hunted and mentally tortured while he is also trying to outwit the predator.

Films like this are hard to come by nowadays. At least, these types of films with this level of quality. For something that wasn’t wholly original and on the surface, pretty derivative, The Hitcher grabs onto your throat like a choke hold and doesn’t release its grip. Even after the credits role, you still can’t breathe.

This film does exactly what it sets out to do and it does it damn well.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Ida Lupino’s 1953 film The Hitch-Hiker, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, this film’s sequel The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting and its remake from 2007. The sequel and the remake don’t have quite the same quality though.