Magnum Force Review

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Idiosyncratic but effective San Francisco cop Dirty Harry Callahan is on the trail of a vigilante group that is taking out the city’s undesirables. When he discovers there might actually be cops responsible, Harry has to go on the bounds of his own orders


A satisfying sequel to the immortal Dirty Harry, that still signalled the gradual slide from radical filmmaking into the stodgy maintenance of a franchise with further empty cases for the uncivil and amoral Harry Callahan. This lean thriller really feels the absence of Don Siegel, an expert in framing the excesses of movie violence in a stark, moral climate, but does maintain the gutsy ‘70s temper of its progenitor. Perma-sneered Eastwood glowers and growls as if the effort to spit out his lines is too much, and there is the basics of a moral dilemma in the comparison of Harry’s loose approach to finesse of police work and the genuine vigilantism of his foes. It’s message about internal corruption rather than outward criminality that also echoes the recent tribulation of Nixon’s foiled administration. When you realise that John Milius and Michael Cimino wrote the script, two arch-fretters at the borders of the establishment, things become a little clearer.

Yet when it is boiled down to some kind of neat essence, the dependence on the standard fabric of commercial policiers — shoot-outs, chase scenes, glib one-liners — tempers such aspirations to the meaningful. It plays to the feeble in the watcher where you just want to see the toughest sonofabitch on the ‘Frisco force bring down the evil within, ironically represented by TV stalwarts David Soul and Robert Ulrich. Hal Holbrook — who had recently played Deep Throat — makes the usual moves as Callahan’s boss but with some conviction.

Thus, as hard as the screenwriters try, the film never makes a telling point beyond just another classic Harry-ism: "Nothing wrong with shooting, as long as the right people get shot."

Very 70's, very early Eastwood. This has grit coming out of its ears but not the greatest Eastwood feature by a long shot.