The Enforcer (1976) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for violence, nudity, and language
Running Time: 96 min.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Mitchum, DeVeren Bookwalter, John Crawford, Samantha Donne, M.G. Kelly, Albert Popwell, Rob Reiner (cameo), Joe Spano (cameo)
Director: James Fargo
Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant, Dean Reisner
Review published August 30, 2006

The middle entry in the Dirty Harry series proves to be a middling effort.  The only development of significance in the film is that Harry is partnered with a woman, a green recruit named Inspector Moore (Daly, Telefon).  Of course, Callahan doesn't like it, thinking that a woman's place isn't out in the crime-ridden streets, but the city wants a new image for its force to keep up with the changing social atmosphere.  Their first assignment together is to try to take down a band of terrorists armed with stolen military weaponry, who are using their death and destruction to extort $2 million from the city.

Fans of the series probably will be entertained seeing Eastwood as Dirty Harry again, but for more casual viewers, The Enforcer just doesn't measure up to the first two entries in intense action or in their exploration of ethics.  With the exception of the role of women as law enforcers, this is a routine cop thriller, with lackluster villains and a bland plot, not all that different from the many cop shows that one could find on television at the time of release almost any night of the week.  First-time director James Fargo (Every Which Way but Loose, Forced Vengeance) shoots without any of the style that marked Don Siegel's Harry, and with the jazz score and trademark loose delivery, you can bet that Eastwood had a major hand in how the film was made, much as he did with Magnum Force,  perhaps worthy of sharing co-director credit.

The Enforcer delivers the bare minimum required for a Dirty Harry vehicle.  There's action, there's excessive violence, and there's Eastwood looking pissed off throughout.  It's not really must-see, even if you've liked the first two entries, but it's not without its own entertainment value, modest though it may be.  It's one of the shortest of the five-film series, and the most padded with lengthy foot chases, making it seem quite lean in comparison to the meatier and more thought-provoking entries that came before it. 

People will either praise this entry, or knock it, for the very same reason: familiarity.  The familiar tone and attitude should please die-hards, but those looking for something new will probably be bored by this overall feeling of sameness to the first two films, as well as to many other cop thrillers of the same era.  The title of the film, mostly a generic throwaway, might have been better if changed to The Reinforcer, as reinforcing previous themes and characterizations is all this entry does.

-- Followed by Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo