With Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, David Soul, Robert Urich, Mitch Ryan and Tim Matheson.
“…and I never had to take my gun out its holster once. I’m proud of that.”
“Well, you’re a good man Lieutenant. A good man always knows his limitations.”
“Magnum Force” is Ted Post’s near brilliant follow up to Don Siegel’s masterpiece, “Dirty Harry”, following Inspector Harry Callahan through another journey through the streets of lawlessness in San Fransisco. This time Harry is pitted against vigilantes, people taking the law into their own hands and serving justice the way the court system can’t. Mob bosses are being gunned down in the streets, pimps and drug kingpins are being killed.
Callahan wants on the case, but is being blocked by Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook). Briggs and Callahan have some sort of unknown history together, and we’re never told what it is and that makes their relationship that much more interesting. As the murders continue, Callahan sets his sights on four motorcycle traffic cops, and especially the leader of them, Patrolman John Davis (David Soul).
The film is a prime example of what a sequel to a classic should be. It pays tribute to the film before it, but it can also exist on its own terms. What’s truly rich about the film is the screenplay written by John Milius and Michael Cimino (who later directed Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in an Oscar nominated performance in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”) is fresh and filled with great lines and ultra rich characters. The film doesn’t rehash Eastwood’s iconic lines from the first film, it creates its own.
The supporting cast that surrounds Eastwood is impeccable. Aside from Holbrook as the vengeful Lt. Briggs, is David Soul (TV’s “Starsky & Hutch), Robert Urich (TV’s “Spencer for Hire”) and Tim Matheson (Otter from “Animal House”). Veteran character actor Mitch Ryan plays Harry’s former partner who is now a motorcycle traffic cop that is slowly losing control of his life.
The film paces itself well to an epic showdown of the biker cops and Callahan. The thing I find truly remarkable about this film is that the story is about Callahan putting a stop to police officers expressing their own form of judge, jury and executioner. In the first film Callahan would bend the rules almost until they snapped to seek justice; in this film he’s perusing police officers who are shattering them.
The one factor that drags the film from being excellent is the unnecessary love story arc between Callahan and some five foot tall Asian woman that lives in his apartment building. I understand why the scenes are in the film, I just think there are better ways to convey Callahan’s compassion and soft side (although do you think a man like that does have a soft side?). Dirty Harry is one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history, and rightfully should be. Callahan doesn’t give a fuck about anything but justice.