Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan
Director: Ted Post
Running Time: 122 mins
Magnum Force is an American film and the sequel to Dirty Harry. Following reports of a group of vigilantes circulating San Francisco executing the city’s biggest criminals, Harry Callahan is called back to the homicide squad to uncover the truth.
Did we really need a sequel to Dirty Harry? No, but I’m glad we got one as good as Magnum Force. Still by no means comparable to the gritty thrills of the original, this sequel does a good job at living up to its predecessor, with a worthy return by Clint Eastwood in the central role, along with an entertaining (albeit often preposterous) crime story to make for yet another captivating watch.
Once again, however, the stand-out of the film is Clint Eastwood. Impressively putting in just as much effort as the first film, he returns triumphantly to the character of Harry Callahan, and brings all the grit and toughness you love about him once again. He may not have such a worthy opponent to fight against this time round, but so much of this film’s entertainment factor comes from watching in awe at Eastwood’s relentlessly hard-as-nails approach to everything about this film.
In terms of supporting performances, we don’t get such a stunning turn from the villain of the movie, but there are still a handful of good turns that help to make the story a lot more exciting than it could have been. Hal Holbrook gives a good show as an obstacle to Harry’s investigations, whilst David Soul impresses in a smaller role too, giving the film’s supporting characters a strong role to match up to the central protagonist.
One thing that the film is missing, however, is a sense of true grit. Dirty Harry was a brilliant exercise in gritty cop cinema, but this time round, director Ted Post doesn’t manage to emulate that, leaving this sequel feeling a lot more like an episode of Hawaii Five-O than a truly dark thriller. There are some strong moments, particularly in a couple of exciting action scenes, however there’s no doubt that Magnum Force really misses the mark of grit that its predecessor managed to hit so well.
However, the biggest disappointment for me in this film was the story. Entertaining it may still be, but there were things about this plot that felt so far from anything like the original. For one, it’s a lot more far-fetched, with Harry Callahan occasionally taking on superhuman levels of toughness and brains, whilst it also fails to deliver the same unpredictability of the original, leaving what is a clear-cut mystery from very early on until far too late to resolve.
Overall, there’s no doubt that Magnum Force doesn’t match up to Dirty Harry. It’s less exhilarating, less unpredictable, and less gritty. Clint Eastwood does an incredible job to deliver yet another excellent central performance, and the film does still manage to provide entertainment despite its paling in comparison to the original, so that’s why Magnum Force gets a 7.6 from me.