THE DEAD POOL

2.5 Stars
Year Released: 1988
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 91 minutes
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“It’s not a rip off it’s an homage.”
What a weird artifact of the late ’80s this is. Dirty Harry as graying, pissed-off pulp super hero. By this time, Clint was making Dirty Harry movies merely to pay for the artier film experiments that would eventually lead to his climactic career masterwork “Unforgiven”. I imagine Orson Welles would have lived a much happier life if he would have just killled some people on film in between his more ambitious efforts. Nevertheless, there’s lots of weird and fun stuff to be found here. This was the first time I ever heard “Welcome to the Jungle” by the pre-fame Guns and Roses, whose loitering around the edges and Jim Carrey’s lost goofy take as an O.D-ing rock superstar just gives you more fun stuff to gander at besides Clint shooting a guy with a huge harpoon gun while telling him that he’s “shit out of luck,” which didn’t quite become the catch phrase that “Make my day” or “Do you feel lucky punk?” were. Harry’s best catch phrase to me was always his great rescue of the word “swell,” which he used to mutter his way through any number of situations that managed to disgust him from time to time.
“The Dead Pool” desperately tries to be about a hundred different things, but really it’s only purpose is to toss Clint’s super killer into hundreds of scrapes as quickly as possible. Spider-Man never got attacked half as many times as this. Clint doesn’t violate anybody’s rights here, basically because he doesn’t really have time to do anything but shoot people, toss off one-liners that would make Ronald Reagan proud and show up to the sight of the next murder.
“The Dead Pool” pretends to care about the nature of fame and the bloodthirstiness of television and movies, but that’s really just an excuse to show you more things to whet your own appetite for gore and mayhem. There’s one fun scene where a guy douses himself with gasoline and threatens to set himself on fire in front of a news camera, figuring to finally get some attention for his worthless boring life. Harry talks him down by refusing to film his suicide. Without any cameras to document his act, the guy gives up, but thankfully for those viewers who dig seeing guys on fire he still manages to accidentally ignite himself. For anyone who doesn’t like it, we get to see a movie critic brutally murdered, so tread your way against this movie lightly and with little fanfare.
“The Dead Pool” has a couple of brilliant ways to toss Harry and his magnum into the fray. Harry becomes locally famous by getting a leading mobster convicted and tossed into jail. The mobster retaliates by putting a contract out on Harry’s life. This has nothing to do with the Dead Pool case, but it does mean that we get to see people trying to kill Harry with machine guns every seven minutes or so, and what could be better than that? Is there something about machine guns that makes you stop aiming? Harry kills like 10 machine gunners with like 12 bullets, while his opponents miss 3,927 times. Additionally, Harry gets another partner to wind up in the hospital or dead. If you thought that this partner would be a minority, you’ve seen at least two of Harry’s four previous movies.
Clint eventually convinces the mob leader to call off his hounds in one of those funny prison scenes with the large psycho killer as hammer to Harry’s threats so we can concentrate on the absurd main plot which has something to do with a B-movie director whose list of celebrity death predictions starts to come true. I would have preferred that we stay with the mobster. I mean, what better way would there be for Harry to shoot all the evil people out there than to have them all trying to kill him? Eventually, Harry would have had to suck up most of the killing population and then he could retire.
“The Dead Pool” is a lot like seeing one of your favorite rock bands become too celebrated and their musical performances wind up more of a flash thrill than a meaningful expression of rage and anger. This is Dirty Harry’s greatest hits, which is a little fun and a little embarrassing. The best part of the film is a warped version of “Bullitt”‘s San Francisco car chase through Pacific Heights. Here Harry is chased through the steep hills of the city by a superhuman remote control car which is also an armed explosive. I blew out a clutch learning to drive on those hills, but the evil killer here manages to successfully drive both his own car and the toy at maximum speed in pursuit of our heroes. Oddly, the toy car blows up Harry’s vehicle, puts his partner in the hospital and doesn’t really even rumple Inspector Callahan’s suit. If Harry is indestructible, he should at least give his opponents a head’s up by wearing a red, yellow and blue costume. Do your best to be entertained by “The Dead Pool” without losing your love for the heart-felt, angry intensity of the series’ first film. For those of you whose attention span has been destroyed, this is Clint’s most MTV-inspired movie until Michæl Bay someday directs part six of this series. In the original “Dirty Harry,” Clint predicted that his nemesis would continue to kill because “he likes it,” which is likely as good a description of Harry Callahan and his reason to keep wearing a badge close to two decades after he tossed his first one away. I’d like to see a movie where Harry goes crazy and tries to kill everyone. Of course, the guy to knock the king off the block gets his own movie franchise.



Posted on January 3, 2001 in Reviews by
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