Sudden Impact (1983) dir. Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sandra Locke, Pat Hingle, Paul Drake
By Alan Bacchus
By far the most monetarily successful entry in the venerable cop series is Sudden Impact, the fourth go around the ornery, vigilante cop who works in the most liberal city in America. This contradictory setup still has legs and results in sustained entertainment.
Though he was born in the 70’s the Callaghan character was made for the 80’s. His staunchly conservative values and shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude fits rights into the zeitgeist of this rather unpleasant decade of cinema. Thankfully Warner Bros execs, who know the crime genre better than anybody, never did let the series fall into self-parody or corny cartoonish action.
The 80s is palpable here though. It’s much grimmer and violent, with a dozen or so extremely grisly deaths throughout. This time round Dirty Harry investigates a series of murders of a group of men all killed in the same manner – a shot to the groin and a shot to the head. Behind the grisy acts is Jennifer (Sandra Locke), a mousy and unassuming gal, and former rape victim who has come back to town to get revenge on her assailants. Locke's performance, deeply psychological and intense, is a stark contrast to Callaghan's bubblegum baddies of the '70s. She is simply fantastic and Oscar-worthy.
Key to Harry’s dramatic arc in this one is his new Magnum gun – not a revolver, but an automatic pistol/phallus which he keeps in a case in his house for ‘special occasions’. Of course, the beast of a gun comes out at the end when he confronts the leader of the rapists.
The picture loses some credibility with a couple of inexplicable narrative coincidences. Chiefly the relationship Harry develops with Jennifer, a random meeting between two people, a cop and his suspect. And Harry in a relationship just doesn’t feel right. The idea of these two people having romantic pillow talk is too chilly to believe. Thankfully we don’t see much a romance, more of a silent acknowledge of respect from Harry to Jennifer for avenging these unpunished bad deeds.
As the only entry directed by Clint, there’s a distinct panache behind the camera not evident since the Don Siegel-directed original. Clint’s usual super 35mm process widens the screen out even more. And as far as the famous catch-phrase, 'Go ahead make my day', it caps off a well-directed sequence - Harry using his Magnum force and a succinct line of dialogue to convince the robber of a cafe to surrender. The scene is truly worthy of this great one-liner.