Sudden Impact (1983)

Sudden Impact (1983), directed by Clint Eastwood.

Dirty Harry #4 of 5, the only one directed by Eastwood. This is a comeback after the weakly comic The Enforcer (1976). There is still a bit of silliness when Callahan commandeers a retirement home bus for low-speed pursuit, much to the delight of the passengers.

The main subplot is a rape and revenge story. Ten years after, a woman is finding and killing members of a gang who violated her and a sister. Her method is one bullet in the crotch and another in the head. This is everyone's favorite Eastwood protege, Sondra Locke. She plays it pretty well: not so much enraged as emotionally cold and dissociated, sad and on the edge of losing it. She's delivering justice. Harry agrees and, in the end, conceals her murders. That's never happened before.

Apart from this string of killings he also has to worry about some dumb punks and more serious mobsters, both groups after him. And the usual stickup jobs he always encounters. He shoots a boatload of people in this one. This is the origin of "Go ahead, make my day."

A problem with the rape gang is that they have to be made even more villainous to justify their punishment. This is done by giving them loud and excessively vulgar dialogue. Then it's ok to shoot them. The ringleader is shot, falls several stories and is impaled on a carousel unicorn's horn. Subtle. If I were a screenwriter I hope I could come up with better lines than "Get the bitch! The bitch is mine!"

Lalo Schifren score.

Available on Blu-ray. Richard Schickel provides an easy-going commentary track. He points out that there are shades of guilt and remorse in the rape gang: it's not all black and white, making the executions more ethically troubling. He also thinks the two plot tracks have tones that don't quite mesh: the standard Dirty Harry plot, often ironic, and the revenge plot, serious and somewhat psychotic.

Well, yes and no. This is definitely new territory for the series, and Harry goes where he hasn't gone before. But the two leads do share much in common: a sense of justice and the willingness to take direct action. Her technique is painfully funny (in a way), which is also true of his methods.