Friday, September 17, 2010

"The Enforcer:" The manly appeal of a world where no one is screwed over without violent retribution

Title: The Enforcer
Released: 1976
Genre: Dirty Harry, part 3
Notable for: Tyne Daly and the beginning of Clint's questionable reputation as a feminist filmmaker
Coolest thing Clint does: Drives a car into a liquor store with guns blazing

Deep, black despair has clouded our perspective since a despicable fraud was committed last weekend in the corrupt city of Chicago.

Our beloved Detroit Lions started a new season in strange and unfamiliar style — with victory — by beating the Chicago Bears 21-19. Millions of television viewers saw Calvin Johnson catch the winning touchdown in the waning seconds of the game.

Oh, we were happy. We danced around our living room, sang the sacred Lions fight song ("Gridiron Heroes") and called Jay Cutler names like "crybaby" and "douchebag."

Then it happened. Under the influence of either Satan or a large bribe, the referees invented a rule and pretended it was violated by the Lions. They pretended the winning touchdown never happened due to some gibberish about the "process" of catching a football.

The usual futility, stupidity and ineptitude make it difficult enough to go through life as Lions fans. Adding larceny to the list is too much to bear.

Our despair was still strong when we sat down to watch the one man who never gets screwed like the Lions: Dirty Harry Callahan in "The Enforcer."

By this third installment of the Dirty Harry series, we know what to expect.

1. Clint carries a huge pistol and blows away scumbag maniacs in spectacular style. Check.
2. He has disdain for superior officers who are either spineless or evil. Check.
3. Unnecessary nudity and/or a kinky sex scene is unexpectedly but briefly stumbled upon. Check.
4. Harry's partners are jinxed. Double check.
5. Against all odds, the bad guys lose in the end. Check (of course).

We like that kind of stuff. How about you?

The basic storyline pits Harry against a gang of homicidal radical terrorists like the Symbionese Liberation Army, a militant group famous in the mid 1970s for kidnapping and brainwashing heiress Patty Hearst.

The creeps kidnap the mayor of San Francisco and demand ransom. Harry and his new partner track them down on Alcatraz Island, which they invade and conquer with bullets and shoulder-fired rockets. Clint does not care about the mayor, who is a douchebag, but he has a revenge-seeking hatred for the gang of radicals because they killed one of his many dead partners.

As is true for many Clint movies, the plot is not everything. Here are some highlights.

Funniest scene: Clint is transferred to the personnel department as punishment for being too violent in his police work. "Personnel," he says, "that's for assholes!" To which his sniveling, brown-nosing boss says, "I was in personnel for 10 years."

Best action: Three trigger-happy robbers are holed up in a liquor store with hostages. They demand a car from police. "What are you going to do?" Clint's partner asks. "Give them one," Clint says. Then he drives through the front of the store, dodging a shotgun blast, and shoots all three perps. The last one is intentially shot in the crotch from behind while running away, and he falls to the floor grabbing his nuts with both hands.

Best actor sighting: We nearly went crazy trying to place the actor who plays a black militant leader and reluctant informer who helps Dirty Harry. First we thought it was Jim Brown, the great football player turned marginal actor. But it was not Jim Brown. It was what's-his-name, the guy who played the bank robber who heard the first "Do I feel lucky?" speech in the original "Dirty Harry."

The most obvious way "The Enforcer" is different from earlier Dirty Harry films is Clint has a chick for a partner. It's Tyne Daly, later of the "Cagney and Lacey" television show. Clint is appalled to receive a female partner, but she wins his respect and, it seems, affection. There is no love scene, but you get the idea they would eventually hump like otters except Tyne gets shot dead at the end. Dirty Harry looks like he wants to cry.

"Men appreciate more than killing," Andrew reflected.

Oddly enough, Clint was lauded in certain feminist quarters for "The Enforcer." The bra-burners praised him for presenting a strong female character who overcame prejudice to prove her worth as a cop and a friend. Maybe feminism is what Clint had in mind, but we sincerely doubt it.

Dirty Harry was no feminist. He was hugely popular because, regardless of race or gender, he hated no one except people who deserved hatred. And because in his perfect world injustice was always punished by, at minimum, a bullet to the testicles.

We needed a man like that in Chicago last week.

Next up: "The Gauntlet."

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