The Dead Pool (1988 USA)

“If you wanna play the game you better know the rules, love.” So sayeth Harry Callahan. Thankfully, director Buddy Van Horn and his team knew how to end the franchise on a high note. This is just as good as its two predecessors. In fact, Sudden Impact and The Enforcer were both pretty lackluster to the point of being almost boring. At least this swansong for Harry has a high degree of pure 80’s trash going for it. You want rock music videos, silly accents, some amusing dialogue, Uzi machine guns ejaculating at glass elevators and even a high speed car chase that involves a toy? With The Dead Pool, you’ve got all that and more.

Much like the other films in the Dirty Harry series, this movie takes place in San Francisco with Inspector Callahan (Clint Eastwood) called upon to investigate some murders which are all connected to a list of names found on one of the victims. As it so happens, each of the names are local celebrities selected by one unknown person within a small group, in a type of wager on who will die next. ‘A Dead Pool.’ Surprise, surprise: Harry Callahan is on that list. Needless to say, if finding this elusive serial killer wasn’t enough, Inspector Callahan also has the mob trying to kill him and the usual media shit heads hounding him every step of the way.

Director Buddy Van Horn has gone for all out parody of the character. And it works. Eastwood places his tongue firmly in his cheek, and the action is staged very well. In many ways, it’s like a greatest hits collection: the one liners, the 44. Magnum, the fights with superiors, the ‘minority’ partner and the steely facial look. However, the violence of the movie is more slasher film–oriented and sometimes the whole ensemble becomes confused as to what it is: a parody, an action product or a slasher flick. A weird vibe for a Dirty Harry motion picture. In keeping with the politically correct side kick not being able to be a white dude like Harry, this time around its an Asian guy who can do martial arts moves at the drop of a hat.

The No. 1 suspect is a nasty horror director, well played by Liam Neeson. His wobbly accent has to be heard to be believed. The star of this director’s latest sleazy concoction is a heroin junkie/rock idol played by the young Jim Carrey. In a shabby spoof of The Exorcist, set to Guns N Roses music, young James is the first celebrity victim to be offed. Soon, a pretty TV reporter (Patricia Clarkson) gets involved in the case, so Clint has his hands full dealing with each act of criminal violence whilst simultaneously hoping to get into Patricia’s pants. Its a delicate balancing act, but the aging crusty pulls it off well. Unfortunately, whilst the other films in the Dirty Harry franchise looked big budget for their day, The Dead Pool looks and feels cheap, almost like a TV episode from Hawaii Five O. Sad, as President Trump might say.

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