Whether they be living or dead, Judge Roy Hrab is no fan of pools.
Harry Callahan: Do you have any kids, lieutenant?
For better or for worse, The Dead Pool is the fifth and final instalment in the saga of one of cinema's most iconic characters: "Dirty" Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven).
Facts of the Case
Local Bay-area celebrities are being murdered and Detective Harry Callahan is on the case. In the course of his investigation, it turns out the crew of a horror film are playing a game called "The Dead Pool," which requires players to make a list of celebrities they believe will die within a year. All the murder victims are on the list of director Peter Swann (Liam Neeson, Darkman). More ominously, Harry's name appears as well.
The story arch of The Dead Pool is standard Dirty Harry fare: Harry destroys some police vehicles, gets dressed down by his superiors, has a new partner imposed on him, blows away some criminal thugs with his Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and tracks down a deranged killer. There's nothing new here.
That said, the central theme is Harry dealing with his own fame (or infamy). Celebrity and sensationalistic journalism is an inescapable subject throughout the film. The police force wants Callahan to use his new found celebrity status to help with everything from getting a mob thrown in jail to increase recruitment numbers. The media wants exclusive interviews with him. And, of course, the killer wants him, and other celebrities, dead. Perhaps, the theme is overdone, but it does serve to distinguish Dead Pool from the other films in the franchise.
The film recognizes the larger the life or comic book nature of the Dirty Harry character. For example, Harry survives two attempts on his life from multiple killers wielding automatic weapons. Callahan not only kills the would-be assassins, but does it without receiving so much as a scratch. In an inventive, but ridiculous homage to Bullit, Harry and his partner, Quan (Evan Kim, V), are chased around the hills of San Fransico by a remote-controlled toy car armed with plastic explosive. Finally, the showdown between Callahan and the killer, involving a harpoon gun is, needless to say, extremely over-the-top.
As with many of the Dirty Harry films, many scenes are shot in darkness and shadows, but the transfer is, for the most part, solid and clean. On the audio side, the surround sound delivers the goods.
This "Deluxe Edition" contains a slim set of extras. The main feature is a commentary by producer David Valdes and cinematographer Jack N. Green. The two are veterans of numerous Eastwood productions and provide a fair number of tidbits about filming, including stunts, Jim Carrey's audition, and the significance of Guns N' Roses song "Welcome to the Jungle" to marketing the movie. However, Valdes and Green start to run out of steam by the one-hour mark. Also included is "The Craft of Dirty Harry" featurette which examines the lighting, editing, and music of the series.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Dead Pool cannot compare to the original Dirty Harry or the first sequel, Magnum Force. In fact, it is probably the weakest film in the franchise and the outlandish action set pieces contribute greatly to this outcome. Additionally, Eastwood appears to be (understandably) on auto-pilot, spitting out one-liners. The main problem lies with the story. The plot wanders, is not particularly compelling, and lacks tension; plus, the killer has little personality (unlike the first film) and minor characters are introduced for no better reason than to add a scene. Indeed, the 91-minute run time seems 20 minutes too long. The resulting effect is a made-for-television feel.
The Dead Pool is far from the best Dirty Harry movie, but it isn't horrible. If anything, it provides a somewhat logical conclusion to the series while at the same time revealing the franchise had run its course. The Dead Pool: Deluxe Edition is for die-hard fans only.
He may be "Dirty" Harry, but I feel lucky. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by producer David Valdes and cinematographer Jack N. Green
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