1462. Dirty Harry (1971)

8.4 Patient but thrilling
  • Acting 8.4
  • Directing 8.4
  • Story 8.4
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 8.5

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, Harry Guardino

Director: Donald Siegel

Running Time: 102 mins

Dirty Harry is an American film about a tough San Francisco police officer who takes on the task of bringing down the notorious ‘Scorpio’ serial killer, despite his department questioning his methods.

It may be a bit of a slow-builder, but in the end, I was thrilled by Dirty Harry. This is an ingeniously composed crime thriller that combines a fascinating crime story with expert suspense and tension, along with excellent directing, and two stunning central performances that all come together to make a film that packs a real punch.

Let’s start with the real stand-out from this film, the performances. As ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood plays an incredible protagonist. The iconic ‘Do I feel lucky?’ line is just the tip of the iceberg, as we follow a determined, intelligent and most of all tough-as-nails cop on an enthralling case. Eastwood is definitely more talkative than the Man With No Name, but the steely eyes and the intimidating persona remain, but that’s what makes him such a magnetic main character.

On the flipside, the villain here is brilliant too. Played by Andrew Robinson, we get one of the most loathsome, irritating and disgusting antagonists you’ve ever seen on screen. Although his role is smaller than Eastwood’s, I believe that the way that Robinson gets so under your skin as a weedy but annoyingly clever villain, who kills for sport as well, was amazing to see, and my hatred for him as the film reached its climax had me totally caught up in the moment, desperately wanting to see Dirty Harry give him what’s coming to him, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Those two performances go a long way to help you get really wrapped up in the story here, but Don Siegel’s directing is something else that really makes a difference. As I said earlier, the film isn’t the fastest-paced, particularly over the course of the first hour, however Siegel’s gritty directing style gives the film a deeply intriguing atmosphere to keep you engaged even when it’s not all kicking off.

As well as expertly handling the portrayal of an unnerving San Francisco full of criminals and danger, Siegel pulls off a stunning variety of action sequences here too. At times, we get a rapid-fire, high-stakes car chase, and at others, we watch a suspenseful and intense foot pursuit through the dark streets of the city, yet Siegel manages to make both those genres of action work brilliantly. The tension and suspense comes from the enthralling and unpredictable story, at times similar to Silence Of The Lambs, but Siegel does brilliantly to give the film some palpable thrills, leading to an exhilarating watch throughout.

Overall, I loved Dirty Harry. It’s a simply thrilling film that uses its initially slow pacing to build extreme tension and suspense, moving towards an exhilarating finale. Don Siegel’s direction is extremely effective throughout, whilst the two lead performances, from both our hero and our villain, are exceptional, and that’s why I’m giving Dirty Harry an 8.4.


About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com