Today, we continue our look at the Dirty Harry film series by reviewing the third film in the series, 1976’s The Enforcer.
There’s a moment, towards the end of this film, where Harry (played as always by Clint Eastwood) is preparing to blow away one of the bad guys. Before firing, Harry mutters something under his breath. The first time I watched the film, I couldn’t make out what Harry was saying so I turned on the captioning and watched the scene again to discover just what exactly Harry had said before dispensing justice.
The line: “You fucking fruit.”
Yes, The Enforcer finds Harry at his most reactionary and it’s a good thing too. Whereas Magnum Force found Harry fighting his fellow cops, The Enforcer could have just as easily been called Harry Vs. Occupy San Francisco. This time around, the bad guys are members of something called The People’s Revolutionary Strike Force. They’re led by a psychotic ex-pimp named Bobby Maxwell (played by an actor with the wonderful name of Deveren Bookwalter) and they’re fond of saying things like, “For the people!” before striking. To be honest, The Enforcer’s villains are some of the most forgettable in the history of the franchise but that’s appropriate. As opposed to the original Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, The Enforcer is less concerned with being a struggle between equals and more about Harry killing people.
The Enforcer opens with Harry preventing yet another armed robbery. This time, he manages to destroy the entire store while doing so and ends up costing the city of San Francisco several million dollars. Harry’s new superior, Capt. McKay (played by Bradford Dillman) isn’t amused and, as a punishment, temporarily transfers Harry over to the Personnel Department. I have to say that McKay is a very brave man since Harry blew up the last superior who attempted to reprimand him.
Working Personnel, Harry has to sit in on interviews for promotions. While doing so, he is informed that the Mayor has ordered them to find three women to promote to inspector. “Women!?” Harry growls in shocked response.
While Harry is busy attempting to impede the march of progress, his old partner DiGiorgio (John Mitchum) stumbles upon Bobby and the revolutionaries stealing weapons. As often happens with Harry’s partners, DiGiorgio is killed by the bad guys and Harry is transferred back to Homicide so he can investigate the death. Helping Harry out is his new partner — Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), one of the three women who have recently been promoted to inspector.
While Harry and his new partner are busy tracking down Bobby, Capt. McKay tries to pin the crime on yet another revolutionary force, a group of black militants led by Big Ed Mustapha.
Big Ed is played by Albert Poppwell, who previously appeared in Dirty Harry as the “I’s got to know” robber. When Harry first meets him, Harry says, “Haven’t I met you before?” Though the film never explicitly says so, I like to think that the two characters are one in the same.
As for Bobby and the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force, they’re busy kidnapping the mayor and demanding $5,000,000 for his release. Of course, it’s up to Harry and Moore to rescue the mayor and put all the “fucking fruits” back in their place….
Looking over other reviews of the Dirty Harry franchise, The Enforcer often seems to be dismissed as almost an afterthought. Daly’s performance is usually praised (and quite rightfully so because she does give the film’s best performance) but the rest of the film is usually dismissed. To a certain extent, that’s understandable. As I mentioned before, Bobby Maxwell is not that interesting of a villain and Harry is at his most one dimensional here.
That said, I think The Enforcer is actually underrated. There might not be much nuance to Eastwood’s performance here but he gets by on charisma alone and he has a likable chemistry with Daly. As opposed to what we’ve been conditioned to expect from most other films, Harry and Moore’s relationship never turns romantic. Instead, by the end of the film, they truly are equals.
The Enforcer was followed, nearly a decade later, by Sudden Impact. We’ll take a look at that film tomorrow.