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Dirty Harry (1971)

Action & Adventure movie directed by Don Siegel starring Clint Eastwood

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A violent, but wholeseome, well-made, and entertaining revenge flick.

  • Apr 10, 2011
*** out of ****

In many ways, "Dirty Harry" is just like all the other run-of-the-mill revenge flicks out there, although there is, in fact, a slight catch; "Dirty Harry" was pretty original at the time. It's the kind of film that sets the stage for a certain part of a certain genre, preferably here, the action sub-genre known as the "cop film", but this does not mean that we love it. I find it just as hard to love "Dirty Harry" as I do to hate it. There's an irresistible charm to this film, and it has some damn fine action sequences that make it a true genre pleasure. It's better than most revenge flicks, even if it's still kind of generic in its story-telling. This film may not be at its best when it comes to pure substance in the way of story and (some) characters, but as a stylistic, well-acted work; it's quite magnificent, and at the same time, quite dirty. But in a good way.

You may know this film without having seen it. Clint Eastwood's portrayal of the blood-thirsty cop, Harry, is considered one for the ages. I don't disagree with that, and I liked Eastwood's work here. He put dedication into the role, so that we could like it, while the filmmakers put blood and violence into it, so some could detest it.

The story concerns a long-time "bad cop" who, as I mentioned before, goes by the name of Harry. He has been given the nickname "Dirty Harry" because of his attitude towards justice and revenge. He does not believe that Prison is enough for criminals, and since others don't share his beliefs, he takes matters into his own hands. The main focus of the story is Harry and his latest new tale of raw justice. There's a deranged psychopath on the loose, one who will indeed be captured many times, only to be deceptive and a master at his own trickery towards the law. But Harry knows what this good-for-nothing, perversion of man needs; a good gunshot to the stomach. And he intends to give it to him.

Harry, as a character, is all demeanor and no back-story. We learn that his wife died, we learn how, yet this movie does not want to touch such a subject. Such an approach could ruin this movie, make it sappy, and keep it from being the bad-ass action flick that it is today. As I said, Eastwood is the icing on the cake; and the filmmakers are therefore the expert cake-makers.

I liked this film. It was well-filmed, well-scored, and had satisfying action scenes. It's violent, which should be its own repellent to some, but if you can look past that aspect of the film, then this thing isn't too bad. There's decent writing, good acting, and superb filmmaking. I don't think this film is perfect, not even for its genre, but considering how much I hate (most) action flicks, it's a hell of a surprise that I so much as APPRECIATED one as brutal, bloody, and morally depraved as this one. But it feels good to get down and dirty with a bit of style. This film has style, some substance, and some fine attributes that are not to be overlooked. I can't guarantee that all will like it, but there's some part of me that is making a recommendation for you to watch "Dirty Harry". It's entertaining, if not a little more emotionally distant than it cares to be. But then again, not all movies need great stories, great characters, and great emotional resonance. This movie does not have either of the three; but instead, it has cool and well-staged action, entertainment, and a dark sort of message. And that's more than a lot of movies have.

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April 13, 2011
Ryan, I've always liked your reviews which is why I take my time reading them. This new style you've adpated may have made them better, but I am having a hard time which style I prefer more. Keep them coming, buddy! I will be right on by again!
More Dirty Harry (1971 movie) reviews
review by . December 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Well how do you like that?!  You get the brass ring in your sights, after a long and painful journey and someone hits the reset button on you.  They say those are the rules and they had to do it, MAYBE you can see they're argument but you know you just got screwed badly.  It stings having to do your job ALL OVER AGAIN, but not as much knowing that it's going to do more harm then good.      Dirty Harry is THE cop movie.  No wisecracking buddies or gimmicks, …
Quick Tip by . January 03, 2012
A classic of action cinema, Dirty Harry is a must see for those that crave a well done thriller. while the "politics" of the film are still controversial to some to this day, there is no doubt that this film will grip you from beginning to end.
Quick Tip by . December 28, 2010
Tough cop is on the trail of a psychotic sniper and ends up battling not only the sniper but dept policies involving rights and regulations. Prototype maverick cop movie that others still draw inspiration from and launched a new movie series.
review by . August 15, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Clint Eastwood     Cons: full of cons and he's putting them in jail     The Bottom Line: _______________        "I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking, did he fire six shots or only five? Well to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: do I feel …
review by . October 06, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
This is the first of five "Dirty Harry" films in which Eastwood stars as a San Francisco police detective. By the time the last appeared (The Dead Pool, in 1988), Eastwood had aged and times had changed but Callahan's values and methods remained essentially the same. When initially released, Dirty Harry was immediately controversial as was Death Wish (1974). Audiences tended to be divided between those who were offended by what they considered to be excessive violence and those who (like Harry Callahan …
review by . May 15, 2003
"Well, do ya, punk?"  If you recently watched this film, I'm sure you do. "Dirty Harry" is a legendary action film and a classic Eastwood flick, definitely among his greatest. Eastwood is "Dirty" Harry Callahan, a cop who always gets the job done - anyway it takes. Well-directed with a dynamite script and a funky score; definitely not something you should miss. Now what else was I gonna say...  "Well to tell you the truth I've forgot myself in all this excitement."
review by . January 04, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Action-Packed this movie definitely is. Clint Eastwood delivers his own brand of justice in tracking down a serial killer to plagues the city of San Fransisco. The plot certainly has many exciting twists and turns as the elusive villain (Andy Robinson) is able to dodge a conviction because Eastwood's anger gets the best of him. However, Robinson to hijack a bus full of school children and Dirty Harry spots the opening and tracks his man down. Was it five shots or six, but Mr. Robinson sure was not …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Whether or not you can sympathize with its fascistic-vigilante approach to law enforcement,Dirty Harry(directed by star Clint Eastwood's longtime friend and directorial mentor, Don Siegel) is one hell of a cop thriller. The movie makes evocative use of its San Francisco locations as cop Harry Callahan (Eastwood) tracks the elusive "Scorpio killer" who has been terrorizing the city by the Bay. As the psychopath's trail grows hotter, Harry becomes increasingly impatient and intolerant of the frustrating obstacles (departmental red tape, individuals' civil rights) that he feels are keeping him from doing his job. A characteristically taut and tense piece of filmmaking from Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers,The Shootist,Escape from Alcatraz), it also remains a fascinating slice of American pop culture. It was a big hit (followed by four sequels) that obviously reflected--or exploited--the almost obsessive or paranoid fears and frustrations many Americans felt about crime in the streets. At a time when "law and order" was a familiar slogan for political candidates, Harry Callahan may have represented neither, but from his point of view his job was simple: stop criminals. To him that end justified any means he deemed necessary.--Jim Emerson
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Director: Don Siegel
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 1971
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: November 20, 2001
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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