*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Clint Eastwood is Dirty Harry in Magnum Force
Release Date- December 25th, 1973
Running Time- 122-Minutes
Screenplay- John Milius & Michael Cimino
Director- Ted Post
Starring- Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, David Soul, Felton Perry, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven, Robert Urich
Released in 1973 Magnum Force is the 2nd film in the Dirty Harry series and this like the rest of the series doesn’t fail to entertain, but with that said in my opinion this just might be the weakest installment (if not this the Enforcer, which is still a good film) but even a lesser Dirty Harry film is still an excellent movie. The plot was one of the more interesting ones of the series as it deals with vigilante cops. More often than not people often list the Dirty Harry films in with the vigilante film, but I’d disagree. While yes Harry does bend the rules and often gets into hot water with the police department and will sometimes when not working confront a bad guy, but Harry is still on the force even if his methods get him in trouble. Basically he strays from the system, but never fully departs from it. Though with that said the final act of Dirty Harry and Sudden Impact a case can be made for Harry being a vigilante, but with that said along with Death Wish, the Dirty Harry films have influenced the vigilante genre, but in no way do I see these films as vigilante movies for the most part.
As I stated Magnum Force is an excellent film even if I see it as maybe the weakest of the series and while this does feel like a Dirty Harry movie in someways it also doesn’t. Normally Harry is sarcastic and a bit grumpy and while he’s like that here we also see a different side of Harry and in my opinion as far as the character goes he’s a bit different here than the others at times. Normally in these films Harry has these epic character moments like in the first film, did I fire 5 shots or 6 and Sudden Impact with my favorite scene of the series when Harry goes to get his coffee and ends up having to stop a robbery. Magnum Force doesn’t really have those moments with the exception of Harry posing as a pilot to stop a hijacking. Also the plot for Magnum Force seems a little more focused as there aren’t many subplots though with that said it really isn’t until the end when we find out the motives for the vigilante cops and even than there really isn’t a major explanation on why these particular characters are doing this though another character gets more of an explanation, but can’t say much as I don’t want to spoil it. I loved the idea behind Magnum Force as I love vigilante films and of all the movies I thought the plot was probably the most interesting, but just along the way doesn’t work as well as it really should have, but again regardless Magnum Force still packs a punch and Eastwood again shows why he’s one of the most iconic actors Hollywood has ever scene and perhaps we’ll never see anyone that can rival Eastwood.
Various criminals that have somehow escaped justice are being gunned down and executed by a vigilante cop, which we later learn is part of a death squad of cops. These vigilante cops not only kill the felon, but even innocent people or fellow cops if they get in the way of their vigilante justice.
As I stated I felt this had the most interesting plot and screenwriters John Milius & Michael Cimino craft a solid script, but this one does lack those character moments from the other installments. However characters are fairly decent and the interactions between the characters is often entertaining, but the problem is the the plot while interesting isn’t strong enough to run at just over 2-hours and while this is more of an editing problem than writing there still wasn’t enough done with the story, which had potential to be a lot more. Like I mentioned earlier Harry doesn’t quite have those epic character moments, but Eastwood is so brilliant as Dirty Harry he brings more to this film than the script had to offer. Where the script highly succeeds is it does raise some interesting points on vigilante justice and where would it be simply an execution rather than wanting to do the right thing. Overall the script is well written and again I love the idea, but it seems to me there was some missed potential and while it fits into the series it also at times almost feels as if it could have been its own film and not really needing to be a Dirty Harry film.
Director Ted Post delivers a solid if not flawed film. The pacing can be a little uneven, but I’d say that had more to do with the running time than direction. The action scenes are excellent and fun and like the other installments Magnum Force also has thriller elements and the death of the hooker has an almost exploitation type feel going for it. While not as well done as the classic original film, Ted Post makes a solid film that has plenty of entertaining moments only brought down by the fact the story just wasn’t strong enough to justify the 2-hour running time.
Clint Eastwood has a legendary status for a reason and as Dirty Harry its in my opinion his signature role. Harry is one of the most iconic characters and Eastwood’s performance is the reason. Magnum Force has an excellent cast of actors who would later go on to a lot of success. We have David Soul (Starsky and Hutch), Robert Urich (Spenser for Higher) and Tim Matheson (Animal House) and proven actors such as Hal Holbrook and Mitchell Ryan. Out of the entire series I think Magnum Force had the best cast and this in part helped make up for some of the flaws.
Overall Magnum Force is an excellent entry to the Dirty Harry series and while it may be the weakest in my opinion at the end of the day it’s more than entertaining enough to make up for some of the flaws. Eastwood doesn’t fail to deliver and again while I felt the film could have been more it still serves its purpose.