Nov 6, 2008

Magnum Force (1973)

Since I saw Hal Holbrook the day before in All the President's Men, I decided to give another look to Magnum Force, perhaps the most low-key and surely the most character-driven of all films of the "Dirty Harry" franchise. (All of the subsequent films after this second installment largely became live-action cartoons.) In this film, the tough cop Dirty Harry meets his match when a bunch of motorcycle cops act as a vigilante force (among them, David Soul!) who are assassinating big-time crooks who manage to escape justice.

The pace is slow, and the mood is mannered to say the least, but it is interesting to see this automaton superhero as a human being for a change, as we see his humble lifestyle after hours, and Harry even has a love interest! (How's this for a writing team- John Milius and Michael Cimino!) Director Ted Post was a TV veteran, whose sporadic theatrical films showed those origins with economic storytelling and rather flat mise en scene. And despite the generous display of sex and violence, all of the frissons here seem on the level of an episode of "Baretta". Still, I put this flick on every ten years or so, because it has an interesting feel, and this would be one of the few times until the 1990's that Clint Eastwood wouldn't play someone so larger than life. Hal Holbrook, who plays the over-zealous police lieutenant, said in an interview that he gladly accepted this role, because after doing films like The Group and The People Next Door, he would finally appear in a movie that people would actually see! And to be sure, four decades later, people will still line up to see anything with Clint Eastwood. God help me, I just know I'll line up to see Gran Torino.

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