Saturday, June 21, 2008

DIRTY HARRY (Don Siegal, 1971, USA) This grim, sweaty, and nihilistic police thriller reflects the dark side of San Francesco and our own human nature. Based on the Zodiac killings a few years before, the plot involves Scorpio, a lone assassin who mails taunting ransom notes to the police ordering them to pay up…or else. Detective Harry Callahan is assigned to the case and struggles to uphold the Rule of Law when innocent victims are suffering at the hands of this psychopath. And herein lies the morality of DIRTY HARRY. If you’ve read other reviews from me, your humble narrator Alex, you know I work in Law Enforcement. Make no mistake: the Criminal Justice System is a process that protects the defendant’s rights and holds the State to the highest standard possible. And sometimes the Truth is very hard to prove in Court! Siegel’s excellent framing and spring-wound tension make this film seem more violent and furious than it actually is: the camera often moves at a leisurely pace as Harry struts with his .44 magnum into every dirty job that comes along. Siegel also lets the city nightlife breath and whisper giving it a voice of its own. He doesn’t drown the film with obtrusive music: when the jazzy score kicks in, it’s very effective and downright chilling. I don’t buy the legal reasoning when they release Scorpio. Supposing the gun and confession were to be suppressed they still could use other evidence such as the doctor’s identification or handwriting sample from the medical form…some creative police work would have kept him in prison long enough to argue the other suppression issues. Though I’ve never worked a serial-killer case (knock wood), these types of criminals are often sadistic and very intelligent. Scorpio just comes across as a typical Hollywood psychopath who screams crazily and twitches. The ending is perfectly in form with Harry’s morality: how can he uphold the laws he no longer believes in? Who speaks for the victims? Not our Constitution. Who wants Justice? Just-Us! (A)

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