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Dirty Harry faces gender conflict

Thursday, July 30, 2015

CineVerse took the wayback machine to the 1970s last evening to revisit a trusty old relic of that era, Dirty Harry, or, more specifically, "The Enforcer," which proved to be an interesting exercise in examining a later sequel in a popular movie series. Here are the conclusions we drew following our viewing:


HOW IS THIS FILM DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU EXPECTED OR DIFFERENT FROM THE PREVIOUS TWO DIRTY HARRY MOVIES?
It has a bit more humor and slightly less violence than its two predecessors, employing a more lighthearted tone.
Super macho Harry is ironically paired up with a female cop, creating a humorous gender conflict and quirky dynamic; Harry is probably used to treating women as either objects or dependent damsels in distress.
o This begs the question, why did they go to the trouble of teaming Harry up with a female? Is it because they had exhausted the ethnic minorities he was paired up with in the previous two films, who each get killed off and serve as catalysts to spur on Harry’s anger?
In this picture, Harry is arguably less of a vigilante judge, jury and executioner who steps over a moral and ethical line; by contrast, he practices more “self-defense and rescue operations, instead of…cold-blooded executions,” wrote Roger Ebert.
Ebert further wrote of this movie: “The Enforcer is the best of the Dirty Harry movies at striking a balance between the action and humor. Sometimes in the previous films we felt uneasy laughing in between the bloodshed, but this time the movie’s more thoughtfully constructed and paced. For the first time we really get a sense of the human being behind Harry’s fa├žade, some of the scenes with Tyne Daly wouldn’t work any other way. And Clint Eastwood, as always, is good at projecting Harry’s loyalties and convictions in the fewest words possible.”
Similar to the James Bond films of the 1970s, at this point in the Dirty Harry series the filmmakers were trying to outdo the previous films by making the weapons, as well as the villains, bigger and more cartoonish.
“The sick, perverted, complex thrills of the original Dirty Harry film, where the viewer didn’t know where to turn for safe moral ground, are long gone by the time of The Enforcer,” said reviewer Paul Mavis, who added: “For an action film, there sure is a lot of joining in The Enforcer.”
Debatably, Harry has become a bit of a self-parody here, in that his mood, words and actions are fairly predictable although still crowd-pleasing, and he continues to serve as a vigilante wish fulfillment tool for the audience.
The filmmakers here choose a framing and compositional style that seems to glorify Harry and make him appear bigger than life and of a taller literal and figurative stature than others around him.

WHAT IS INTERESTING ABOUT THE MORAL AND POLITICAL TONE OF THE DIRTY HARRY FILM SERIES?
It’s been called a “naked libertarian fantasy.”
It’s been criticized as a film series with a fascist heart draped in a wish fulfillment fantasy cloak.
You could argue that it’s a ridiculous piece of ultra right wing propaganda that criticizes a “liberal judicial system” and the liberal protections granted by the Constitution.
The movies espouse the notion that liberals produced too much law, but not enough justice or order: the solution is less law, which creates more order.
The real villain here, besides the revolutionaries, is the system, the establishment, which is flawed because of its liberalism.
Dirty Harry is also like the polar opposite of Easy Rider: the heartless cops of the latter are a progenitor of the former; and the likeable hippies of Easy Rider have morphed into the sociopathic killers depicted in the Dirty Harry films.
It also depicts San Francisco as a town populated by weak politicians, which makes a nice contrast to the blue-collar, ultra macho image of Harry.
The critic Pauline Kael called Harry a martyr figure who symbolized the conservatives of the period who fashioned themselves as David against the liberal Goliath.

THE VIGILANTE COP MOVIE IS A SUBGENRE FOR WHICH DIRTY HARRY IS CONSIDERED THE PATRON SAINT. CAN YOU CITE ANY FILMS THAT FIT IN THIS SUBGENRE?
High Noon, at the end of which Gary Cooper throws his badge away after dispatching with the villains
The Big Heat from 1953 starring Glenn Ford 
Bullit, starring Steve McQueen, from 1967
The French Connection and Serpico
Death Wish, Walking Tall, Billy Jack, The New Centurions 
McQ and Brannigan, both starring John Wayne
Cobra and Judge Dredd, both starring Sylvester Stallone

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