Harry Callahan is getting old: His sneers don't carry the venomous look of hate they once did. But in 'The Dead Pool,' the latest adventure of the hard-bitten homicide detective played by Clint Eastwood and directed by Buddy Van Horn -- Dirty Harry is getting better.
With a wild, and now graying and thinning mane, Callahan is a media hero in 'The Dead Pool.' He's so celebrated in fact, that his name appears along with some other big-name San Francisco celebrities on a morbid 'dead pool' list -- a game played by a bunch of cynical horror movie makers who bet on which of the celebrities on the list will die at a certain time.
In 'The Dead Pool,' Dirty Harry is not only the hunter, but the hunted as well, and not just by one, but by two ruthless rogues, including a Mafia don who's convicted on testimony provided by the detective.
It's a double-barreled murder mystery with all of the ingredients to entertain Dirty Harry fans. There's plenty of blood and car crashes, and the requisite number of Dirty Harry one-liners: Looking down the significant barrel of Dirty Harry's gun, killers are wont to here the warning, 'You're .... outta luck' before they're blasted into the Great Beyond.
But perhaps more in this film than in his previous, Eastwood is comfortable with his screen persona. He proves himself an aging star who is knowledgable and smooth, who takes his work seriously and his movies with a grain of salt. There are hints that the aging Eastwood may have lost some of that smoldering fire that branded his early cowboy and cop movie roles, but it has been tempered with steely grace and no small amount of wit.
In fact, wit is abundant in 'The Dead Pool,' perhaps best exemplified in a high-speed chase between three cars, one of which is a remote-controlled toy. It's an ingenious parody and brings back some excitement into whathas surely become the most hackneyed of movie ploys.
And for the first time, Eastwood's co-stars bring some wit to their thankless tasks of playing second fiddle to Dirty Harry. For example, Evan Kim plays his partner role with great understatement, and makes his comic presence felt each time he's on screen. It'd be a pleasure to see him back in any subsequent Dirty Harry film because he's left us eager to see more of him and Harry together.
And Patricia Clarkson as the competitive but not-idiotic journalist who becomes enamored with Harry does, thankfully, a credible job as an intelligent and attractive love interest for the cranky detective.
There didn't seem to be anything special in the unraveling of the murder plots in 'The Dead Pool,' but for what it lacked in suspense, Dirty Harry and company made up in talent and wit.
This movie is rated R. Strong language and violence are depicted throughout the film.