Year Released: 1976
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 96 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:
“Well that’s very stylish.” ^ (Harry Callahan’s thoughts on women in the police force.)
How does this guy still have a job? The only people he treats as rudely as the street vermin he dispels with are his direct superiors. Here he sort-of saves the Mayor of San Francisco, but the way he glares at the poor guy you’d have to say that chances are he would have put just as much effort into saving someone’s prize show dog if they’d just let him shoot a couple of terrorists too. Of course, there are a lot of forward-thinking people in this movie who hate and are hated back by Harry, but somehow he still eventually always winds up on all the big jobs. Enforcer is a term they use in hockey to describe the guy on the team who can’t really play hockey but is around in case a fight breaks out, which is actually a pretty good description of Dirty Harry. He’s like a virus they release on the city in case of emergencies. “Oh no the city is in peril! I hate to do this but we’d better let Callahan take care of it. Someone call him and tell him he can have his job back and that we’re sorry.” Perhaps the most rational point that this series ever made was that it’s always a good idea to have a psycho on staff for special occasions. Watch how fast those squirrelly liberals call Harry up when their own ass is in danger.
I understand why all of his partners wind up either hurt or dead, but why do they always have to be minorities? Is it because otherwise we’d see Harry for the proto-fascist he really is? Maybe it’s even so we do see Harry for the proto fascist he is. Harry’s synonym for minority is hood! First we had an Asian, then we had an African-American. Hmm, how about a woman? It’s sort-of a tip to the ERA movement of the time. The Asian guy got hurt. The African American got dead (if only he checked his mailbox every day for explosives like Harry.) Tonight’s contestant is Tyne Daly. Good Luck Tyne. Harry is just going to hate you until you gain his respect by winding up either hurt or dead. You’re plucky. I really hope at the end that you wind up hurt and not dead.
“The Enforcer” also eases up on Harry as an abuser of human civil liberties and concentrates on his psychotic battle tactics as a Police Officer. In essence, that means “The Enforcer” lets you have your fun and leaves the big issues to Clint’s Westerns. This is a good move because while I and many others believe in civil liberties, no one likes a cop who goes by the book. Besides, Harry seems to have realized that if you kill the criminals then you never have to bother with prosecuting them. It’s only when people live that Harry gets hassled.
You have to love Harry’s negotiating technique, though. In most movies the negotiators are very calm, whereas Harry starts out surly and gradually hits high at the top of his personal rage meter, which should be shown on the bottom of the screen at all times and would be a cool bonus for a special DVD version. A hostage taker makes the mistake early on here of spitting on Harry. Don’t these criminals know who this guy is by now? Don’t they know that he’s going to react badly to this and wind up driving his police cruiser into the store? Don’t they know that he’s going to casually avoid that shotgun blast and shoot them all dead? Shouldn’t criminals know something about their city’s police force? I mean you wouldn’t have to study to hard to learn about this guy. He’s got to be on the cover of the Examiner and the Chronicle every week or so. It does raise the question though. If one member of the police force has shot twenty times as many people as the rest of the police force put together, should he be fired or get a bonus? Are there awards for guys who rack up their 100th kill?
In “The Enforcer,” Harry’s favorite word of disgust is “marvelous” rather than swell, and how can you resist a movie that has a foot chase which falls into a porno shoot and ends up in a Church with a young priest lecturing a tired out and pissed off Callahan? (It’s ok he turns out to be sort of a bad guy too.) Throughout, this is Harry at his comic best. He doesn’t just toss off cool sneering one-liners when he shoots someone. Harry has enough material here to do a weekend at Cobb’s Comedy Club down in the wharf. How about this one: “If she wants to play lumberjack, she’s gonna have to learn to handle her end of the log.” Try to tell me that Arnold, Sly, or even Mel and Danny together were ever this funny, pissed off, or downright scary. Who else in the history of motion pictures would use that “mighty white of you” line surrounded by 12 Black Panthers?
Eventually the Mayor gets kidnaped by a sort of Manson family type, if Charlie had been to Viet-Nam and learned to kill people with a huge hunting knife. We never really find out what cause the terrorists are fighting for, probably because Harry could hardly care less. The Mayor in this movie is such a moron that he leaves Candlestick in the middle of a no-hitter so as not to get caught up in the post-game traffic. He more than deserves to get kidnaped.
“The Enforcer” is also a great travelog of San Francisco. You see the Bridges, Ghiradelli’s, Candlestick Park, China Basin, Coit Tower and a couple massage parlors so you know that the bad guys have to wind up on Alcatraz, although you’d think that being left-wing radicals they would have learned something from those Indians who tried to hold the cold rock itself hostage. In three years, Clint would escape from Alcatraz, but here he only shoots a bunch of terrorists there. He even gets the leader with a rocket! Good fun for everybody — just don’t get too attached to Tyne Daly. It’s also too bad Harry was apparently off on vacation when Dan White shot Harvey Milk and George Moscone.
Posted on January 3, 2001 in Reviews by Brad Laidman
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