Film Review: The Dead Pool (directed by Buddy Van Horn)


Hi there!  Today, I will be concluding my look at the Dirty Harry series with the final film in the franchise, 1988’s The Dead Pool.

Harry’s back and he’s still carrying a gun.  He’s also older, wrinklier, grouchier, and suddenly famous because he’s just given testimony in a mob boss’s trial.  You would think that Harry would already be famous seeing as how he not only killed the Scorpio Killer but he also rescured the Mayor from all those communists.  But, I guess that’s what Harry gets for living in the same city that’s been sending Nancy Pelosi to Congress for the last 100 years.

Harry and his new partner (Evan C. Kim) are assigned to investigate the death of rock star Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey).  Harry immediately suspects that the murderer was pretentious film director Peter Swan (Liam Neeson).  This is largely because Swan makes the type of horror films that inspire Harry to snarl with disdain.  It also turns out that Swan has been playing a “dead pool” game and that the various celebrities on his list have been getting killed.  And guess what?  Harry’s name is also on that list…

The Dead Pool was the final Dirty Harry film and, in many ways, it also feels like the most generic.  Whereas Dirty Harry actually had quite a lot on its mind and the first three sequels at least pretended to be concerned about something more than just mayhem, The Dead Pool is often content to be a rather cartoonish action film.  With the exception of a rather witty car chase involving a remote-controlled toy car that’s been strapped with an explosive, the action scenes are predictable and Eastwood’s character could just as easily have been named Spinner Mason or Eli Goldworthy.  There’s simply no huge reason for this film to be a Dirty Harry film, beyond the fact that it wouldn’t show up on AMC every few weeks if it wasn’t.

And yet, it’s impossible for me not to like The Dead Pool.  Though the film might feel generic overall, there’s still the occasional moments that hint that the movie is actually a bit smarter than it might first appear to be.  Considering that the film largely takes place on a movie set and features a film critic among its victims, it’s tempting to see The Dead Pool as being almost a spoof on both the Dirty Harry films themselves and the controversy that’s been generated by their violent content.  It makes sense that Harry Callahan’s name would appear on Swan’s dead pool list because, after spending four films battling serial killers, fascists, communists, gangsters, white trash, and a countless amount of bank robbers, the only opponent left for Harry to face is his own reputation.

The Dead Pool has one of the more interesting casts of the Dirty Harry films.  After dominating the previous films in the series,Clint Eastwood steps to the side and instead, allows his supporting cast to run off with the movie.  It’s a little bit bizarre to see Jim Carrey playing  a rock star (and even more bizarre to see him lip-synching to Welcome to Jungle) but that odd touch seems strangely appropriate for a film that doesn’t seem to be too concerned with much more than being entertaining.  Evan C. Kim is one of Harry’s more likable partners and Liam Neeson, complete with pony tail and superior attitude, is a lot of fun to watch as he spoofs every single pretentious filmmaker that you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have taken a film class with. 

For a lot of reasons, The Dead Pool was the last of the Dirty Harry films.  It was a box office disappointment and, even way back in 1988, Eastwood looked a just little bit old for an action hero.  Eastwood has said that he has no interest in playing the character again and that’s probably for the best because, after five films, you have to wonder just what exactly was left for Harry to deal with.  (That said, I’ve always thought of Gran Torino as being the unofficial sixth Dirty Harry film.)

Well, that concludes my look at the Dirty Harry film series and, not coincidentally, it also concludes the month of September as well!  Starting tomorrow, along with all the other usual great stuff that you expect from us at the Shattered Lens, we’re going to be starting horror month!

Enjoy!

One response to “Film Review: The Dead Pool (directed by Buddy Van Horn)

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