Sudden Impact - Review
Review by Jack Foley
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: Having been suspended for angering his superiors yet again, Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) takes a vacation and finds himself investigating the case of a rape victim (Sondra Locke) who was exacting violent retribution on her attackers.
Our verdict: Widely considered to be the dirtiest and most violent of the series, Sudden Impact actually leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Coming seven years after The Enforcer, it placed an ageing Inspector Callahan against a rapist gang and their female victim and included scenes of gang rape and other sexual violence.
Eastwood’s lead character again had to examine the rights and wrongs of vigilante justice, eventually coming down on the side of the female victim, whose experiences at the hands of rapists scarred her for life, whilst leaving her sister in a permanently catatonic state.
The plot was given extra complexity late on by the conflicted presence of the town’s local sherriff (Pat Hingle), whose own son had been one of the accomplices. But while there was certainly plenty to chew on, the film struck a consistently uneven balance between the comic book violence of Harry’s one-off encounters with robbers and would-be Mob assassins, and the harsh reality of the central case.
His use of then real-life girlfriend Sondra Locke in yet another rape sequence (following similar scenes in The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Gauntlet) also felt exploitative and was an unnecessary extra element to the Dirty Harry franchise.
Sudden Impact is notable for several reasons, however. It’s directed by Eastwood, who shows none of the class exhibited in either his debut Play Misty For Me, or subsequent classics Unforgiven and Mystic River. It helped to revive his fortunes at the box office during the lean ’80s, becoming the highest grossing of all the Dirty Harry films. And it gave US President a memorable line in a speach about raising taxes: Harry’s catchphrase, “go ahead punk, make my day!” The line itself has also been voted in a poll by the American Film Institute as the sixth most memorable line in cinema history. If only the film was as memorable.