Thursday, September 30, 2010

621 - Magnum Force review

About 30 seconds into “Magnum Force,” I realized that Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) had already become a cultural icon less than three years after his first appearance. You don’t need to be a film historian to realize this, as the opening is a close-up of Clint’s famed .44 Magnum revolver against a deliciously comic-book red background, titles going by, the gun steady, before Harry’s famed boasting of the weapon’s decapitation capability plays before a SHOT! signals the start. The message is clear: Harry’s back, a cinematic legend already, and he’s going to blow the living shit out of some bad guys.

There’s nothing wrong with that, though it’s interesting to see how quickly that character got wrestled from its roots and pumped into an icon that belongs more to the fans than the creators. The first film, a true masterpiece of socio-political thriller filmmaking, actually only saw Harry kill two people. But the audience wants what the audience wants, and in “Magnum Force,” the first sequel of four, he waxes anyone who even gives him a funny look, a trend that would continue for the remainder of the series. Doubtlessly, Clint’s fondness for films that feature him as an invulnerable badass had something to do with it, but at least he can pull it off, unlike some other actors.

Though far from a masterpiece, “Magnum Force” actually stands on its own as highly potent action/thriller material. Written by legendary gun fanatic John Milius and would-be genius turned laughing-stock hack Michael Cimino, there’s almost two scripts here: one about cops-turned-vigilante, the other an episodic series of events where Harry butchers San Francisco creeps without so much as mussing his hair. The core plot makes no sense, especially considering the final reveal, but the sumptuously colorful design, witty dialogue, and Clint’s fine-tuned performance make this a sequel that should have satisfied everyone, as long as they aren’t too married to the deeper content of its predecessor.

1 comment:

Will said...

I remember watching this and enjoying it, sure it upped the death ratio, but honestly I enjoyed watching Harry kill a bunch of dirt-bags, it was charming in a sadistic way haha.

As for the writer/hack I have only ever seen other film The Deer Hunter, but I read that Heavens Gate is what did him in. I'm thinking of watching it just to see how bad it is.