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THE DEAD POOL

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan Kim
Director: Buddy Van Horn
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2008

“You’re out of bullets. And you know what that means…you’re sh*t out of luck.”

Film ***

Talk about irony. It may seem a bit unfair of me to be critical of the descent made by the previous Dirty Harry outing, Sudden Impact, into over-the-top cartoon level ridiculousness when the fifth and final movie in the series takes that ridiculous level and pretty much doubles it. But The Dead Pool has always worked for me not only a satisfying cap on the Dirty Harry series, but as a pure popcorn action thriller that moves quickly and doesn’t give you much time to think about what’s going on.

You can’t help but be won over by the fact that this movie, in addition to almost being a parody of a Dirty Harry movie, plays like a compilation of Harry Callahan’s Greatest Hits. It goes through all the familiar elements, such as Harry’s intolerance for bureaucracy, the way he seems to wander into violent situations on an hourly basis, and of course the endless witty one-liners that made the character of Harry Callahan so memorable in the first place.

Add to those great elements a surprisingly tight, if over-the-top, plot scenario and one of the most intriguing and hilarious car chases to ever be featured in a single movie, and you’ve got a most worthy addition to the Dirty Harry series. And even though The Dead Pool is the one Dirty Harry movie where Eastwood appears to show some age, he’s still very much got it in terms of making us believe he’s San Francisco’s equivalent of The Terminator. Whenever he shoots or throw a punch, we buy it completely.

The plot finds Harry being targeted for murder in a most unique way. Harry’s name has landed on a list known as a “dead pool”, which is a list of known public figures, mainly celebrities. It’s pretty much a betting game where people place bets on who will be the first to die.

The movie also has fun with the notion of Harry being partnered up with an Asian named Quan (Evan Kim). Upon their first scene together, you can practically smell a later scene where Harry will be at a loss for words at his new partner’s karate techniques. Then that scene does come into the movie, and it’s every bit as fun as you imagined it.

The movie also adds in an element involving the news media, which seems to be something of a driving force of the public’s appetite for violence. Harry does eventually find a potential love interest in the form of TV reporter Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson). But the only thing any Dirty Harry fan cares about is the inevitable scene where Harry gets angered with on the scene reporters, grabs a news camera and throws it like a football.

And what’s more, the earlier mentioned car chase is one for the history books. Not only is it a hilarious funny spoof of  the car chase in Bullitt, but the chase involves Harry and his partner being chased by an explosive remote control toy car. Ridiculous? Completely, but it’s a showstopper of a sequence and I loved every minute of it.

The Dead Pool can be seen in multiple ways. For me, it’s both a worthy final addition to the Dirty Harry series, as well as a tremendously gleeful guilty pleasure as far as action thrillers go. If Harry was to go out with a pure bang, this is that perfect bang indeed.

BONUS: Jim Carrey has a brief appearance early in the movie as a heroin addicted musician lip-synching the Guns ‘N Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle”.

Video ***1/2

The anamorphic picture on this Warner re-issue provides yet another fantastic restored picture. Despite a small bit of grain in a couple of nighttime shots, which are more frequent here than daytime shots, the picture is for the most part outstanding in its sharpness and color appearance.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix delivers the expected action punch of a Dirty Harry movie. We get a good number of action set pieces, which all sound tremendous. In addition, we get another astounding music score courtesy of Lalo Schifrin, which sounds most fantastic. Dialogue delivery is top-notch as well!

Features ***

On this disc, we get a commentary track with producer David Valdes and cinematographer Jack N. Green, as well as a twenty minute documentary titled “The Craft of Dirty Harry”, which profiles the look, sound, editing and production design of the five Dirty Harry films. Lastly, we get trailers for all movies in the series.

Summary:

The Dead Pool is the one movie in the Dirty Harry series I appreciate mostly for its high level of ridiculousness than anything else. But it’s quite simply a fun, fast-paced 90 minutes of pure action entertainment that fans of the series can really appreciate, as well as a fitting farewell to one of the best movie characters of all time!

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