The Dead Pool (1988) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, drug use and language
Running Time: 92 min.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Evan C. Kim, Liam Neeson, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Darwin Gillett, Anthony Charnota, Jim Carrey, Justin Whalin (cameo), Guns N Roses
Director: Buddy Van Horn
Screenplay: Steve Sharon
Review published September 29, 2006

The fifth and final Dirty Harry film may not go out with a bang, but it is an amusing and exciting enough cop thriller to please the genre fans.  There are no social obstacles to hurdle here, which allows Clint Eastwood to do his thing, getting into fistfights, gunfights, witty banter with the ladies, and monosyllabic conversations with the powers that be.  It may be the slightest of the five films, but it does contain several memorable scenes, including the now famous car chase between Harry and a miniature remote control car packed with explosives (an homage to this scene would be used in the ravenously popular video game series, "Grand Theft Auto III").

Harry Callahan finally gets some positive press for once, after putting away the notorious criminal Lou Janero, which makes him something of a local celebrity.  A feisty, tenacious news reporter named Samantha Walker (Clarkson, The Untouchables) wants desperately to get an interview with the hot cop of the day, only to end up going on a few formal dates with him.  However, things become dangerous for Harry when he ends up investigating some celebrity deaths in the area, discovering that some of the suspects are involved in an insidious game called "The Dead Pool", whereby the contestants must have a list of celebrities they feel will die within a certain length of time, the winner being the one with the most dead celebrities on his list.  Harry Callahan happens to be the name on the list of the top suspect, a z-grade horror director named Peter Swan (Neeson, The Bounty).  When several attempts on his life are made, Harry begins to think that someone is taking the game all too seriously.

"Dirty Harry" purists may scoff at the lack of seriousness taken by the makers of this entry, but for those that just enjoy Clint Eastwood, this is an entertaining vehicle.  In its defense, the character of Harry Callahan had been spoofed so many times over the years, it was hard to get a handle on him without resorting to self-parody, which was very evident in the previous film, Sudden Impact, where Harry seemed to have lost all claims on his humanity.  This is a "kinder, gentler" Callahan, but he still retains his dignity, as well as his pissed-off attitude at the criminal scum.

Don't expect a return to form here, and just enjoy this as a straight-forward police thriller meant strictly for entertainment value.  Snicker at the far over-the-top remote control car scene, enjoy the manic Jim Carrey (The Mask, Dumb & Dumber) appearance, and point at the screen whenever you see a glimpse of Guns N' Roses.  No, it's not a good movie, and certainly not a necessary one, but the way it plays out, Clint and director Buddy Van Horn seem to know it, and that knowledge liberates them to playing up the lack of seriousness to the hilt.  The epilogue seems curiously missing, as it would have been a nice touch to cap off all five films with something resonant, but I suppose it's fitting for Harry to avoid the niceties and just get back to work.

-- Previous entries not mentioned in the review include Magnum Force and The Enforcer.     

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo