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Magnum Force - Review

Magnum Force

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Dirty Harry 2 Disc Special Edition; Magnum Force Deluxe Edition; The Enforcer Deluxe Edition (exclusive to the box set); Sudden Impact Deluxe Edition (exclusive to the box set); The Dead Pool Deluxe Edition (exclusive to the box set); Clint Eastwood: Out Of The Shadows – Feature length documentary DVD narrated by Morgan Freeman; 40 page hardcover book containing rare behind the scenes photos; Replica Harry Callahan wallet with Inspector’s badge and ID Card; Scorpio: Portrait Of A Killer 19” x 27” Poster: San Francisco Street Map detailing Harry’s hunt for the killer; Lobby art cards; Never-before-seen production notes and internal studio correspondence.

Synopsis: Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) investigates a series of murders apparently carried out by a group of vigilante cops who have targeted the criminals the law cannot touch.

Our verdict: Ted Post’s sequel to Dirty Harry was viewed by some as an answer to critics who criticised the original for glorifying violence towards suspected criminals. But it certainly continued to pose some challenging ethical questions.

The issue this time was whether Harry Callahan would ultimately sympathise with the police death squad, rather than facing off against them. His decision certainly wasn’t clear cut, given that their targets were some of the city’s fiercest criminals and the very people the law had unsuccessfully attempted to put behind bars.

When they stepped over a certain line, however, and included Dirty Harry himself among their targets, it made certain decisions a lot easier.

As sequels go, Magnum Force was only marginally inferior to its predecessor, despite the fact that it began to soften the Harry Callahan character. There were more jokes and more one-off situations for the Inspector to face with his trusty Magnum handgun, including an attempted hijacking aboard a plane. In that sense, it was more self-indulgent.

But Eastwood still had plenty to bring to the role of his conflicted hero, complete with another deadpan catchphrase (“a man’s gotta know his limitations”), and a strong supporting cast ensured that there was plenty to chew on in terms of characterisation. Hal Holbrook, in particular, provided an excellent foil to Callahan’s scant regard for authority, while Felton Perry was an engaging presence as Harry’s partner.

Watch out, too, for David Soul and Robert Urich among the police death squad – both lead actors in seminal police series of the ’70s, Starsky & Hutch and Vegas respectively. Their casting as bad cops was shrewd.

The set pieces, too, were memorable in their own way, even though nothing could top the final moments of Dirty Harry, with its busload full of schoolchildren and face/off between Harry and Scorpio. On this occasion, a shooting contest between the rival police officers was well executed, as was another store hold-up for Harry to foil, while the final battle between Harry and the motorcycle cops aboard an abandoned aircraft carrier was suitably exciting.

Magnum Force is therefore a worthy entry into the Dirty Harry franchise that in no way tarnished the memory of such a superb original.

Read our review of The Enforcer