Friday, December 17, 2010

"The Dead Pool:" Harry's last stand

Title: The Dead Pool
Released: 1988
Genre: Dirty Harry, take five
Notable for: Memorable performances by future stars
Coolest thing Clint does: Blows away the bad guy with a harpoon gun

No doubt exists in our limited minds that "The Dead Pool" is the worst Dirty Harry movie. It's the fifth and last in the series, and inspiration does not flow like a cool stream.

Here are five bad parts.

1. "You're shit out of luck" is the worst catch phrase in the Harry Callahan arsenal of catch phrases. Brad could expound on this for several paragraphs, but as a gesture of mercy, he won't.

2. It was impossible to hate the bad guy with the proper passion because he was barely in the film. "The Dead Pool" tries to be something of a whodunit, and that's not right. We don't want to see Dirty Harry solve a crime, we want him to bring bloody justice to psychotic scumbags we know are guilty almost from the opening credits.

3. The expected elements of Dirty Harry movies were by this time so predictable Clint himself plays with them as cliches. When assigned a new partner, he says out loud what everyone in the audience must think. "All my partners end up dead or in the hospital." He carries Dirty Harry's fondness for big guns to a laughable extreme by wielding a harpoon gun in the final scene.

4. The plot is stupid. It's a story about some celebrities who bet on which other celebrities will die and somehow their picks become public and for some reason a dude kills off celebrities on the list of a particular movie director played predictably well by Liam Neeson. That is all we intend to say about that.

5. Dirty Harry is no longer despised by superiors on the police force. He receives a little token complaining about the cost of a police car destroyed on his watch, but Dirty Harry has become a celebrity cop. He's so famous he's on Neeson's list of celebrities expected to die. Much of the movie's message appears intended to be commentary on the nature of celebrity and the media in modern society. No one watches Dirty Harry for that kind of crap.

Strangely enough, we still like the movie.

Jim Carrey and Neeson give good performances early in their careers. Click here to see Carrey (credited as James, not Jim) go all super-freaky. And there is a cameo appearance by Guns N' Roses.

Stupid plot or not, Clint has some great scenes blowing away scumbags. Some of them, as usual, he stumbles upon while walking down the street. Others are hit men out to kill him for sending a mob boss to prison.

One example of classic Clint comes when he's had enough of those pesky hit men. Clint goes to the prison where the mob boss is locked up and scares him shitless by fooling him into believing he, Clint, has purchased protection from the nastiest inmate goon in the prison. A couple of scenes later, mobsters are tailing Clint as bodyguards, not killers.

The ending includes fine symmetry circling back to the very first moments when we saw Dirty Harry 17 years earlier. In the first movie, Clint pretended to lose track of whether he shot all his bullets, asking punks if they felt lucky enough to assume his gun was empty. In the finale, the bad guy steals Clint's .44 magnum and blasts away at him. Then all grows quiet as Clint walks slowly toward the killer with the aforementioned harpoon gun. "You're out of bullets," Clint says. Then he fires a harpoon through the guy's chest.

Nailing that guy with a harpoon was unnecessary (translation: murder) but it is one of the more awesome displays of Dirty Harriness.

As every male knows, the worst Dirty Harry is still better than a lot of other movies. Speaking on behalf of The Clint Eastwood project, we're going to miss Harry Callahan from here on out.

Next up: "Pink Cadillac."


  1. That dialogue between Jim Carrey and Liam in the beginning was pretty lame.

  2. This movie is a real divider. Of course all the straights (non-Clint adoring critics) write it off, but among we real people it really splits us. A lot of people say it's the worst of the series; others - including me - love it. Sudden Impact is the same. A real divider, I mean.
    Now, among your five points, I strongly agree with 2 and 5, but strongly disagree with 1. The shit outta luck catchphrase is a big favourite in my house. As for 3 and 4, well maybe. I think he's been talking about how all his partners die for a while now. But I'd need to watch them again to be sure. I like the plot. I like the way it allows Harry to show contempt for popular culture, something that just never entered his world until now.

    Now, two other things. You didn't mention the little bomb car. Everyone mentions the little bomb car.
    Also, you're getting through these movies at a terrifying rate. I don't want this blog to end. Is there any chance that when you get through all the Clints you'll start again on someone else? Charles Bronson perhaps?

  3. Matthew:

    I won't argue if you rank "The Dead Pool" higher than we do in the Dirty Harry series. But I will argue about the catch-phrase. Thanks for giving me an excuse to expound at length.

    The classic Dirty Harry catch-phrases -- "Do you feel lucky?" and "Go ahead, make my day" --were great because Clint basically said "Your move, scumbag" and made the scumbags squirm trying to figure out what to do next. Who can forget the first recipient of a Dirty Harry catch-phrase saying "I gots to know" after deciding he did not feel lucky. Who can forget Clint pulling the trigger and smiling when the chamber is proven empty?

    "You're shit out of luck" basically tells the bad guys "Game over, you lose," which is not nearly as interesting, drama-wise.

    Come to think of it, "Your move, scumbag" would have been a pretty good Dirty Harry catch-phrase.

    I am not sure why we did not mention the little radio-controlled car. Probably because we cannot decide if it was funny or stupid.

    As for our speed in this absurd completist project, we are trying to do one movie a week. But we will fall behind that schedule in the next couple of weeks due to holiday plans. Merry Christmas one and all.

  4. I'm going to prolong this discussion for the hell of it. (I'm making this up as I go along because I've got nothing else to do on my lunchbreak.)
    Could a case be made along these lines.....

    The first time he says "Do ya feel lucky?" in Dirty Harry it is neutrally, genuinely allowing the perp to choose his next move. But at the end he says it sneeringly and goadingly because he really wants Scorpio to give him an excuse to take him out. He wants him to go for it, because he wants to kill him. It's complicated a little by the fact that he has no bullets left first time out, and presumably hasn't really lost count in all the excitement, so there's an element of bluff there. But basically, even if he did have a full tank of bangers, he wants to arrest the first guy, and kill the second.
    I think he same sort of thing applies with the shit outta lucks. In the diner, I think he means you're shit outta luck because I'm here and you're not going to get away with it. So there's still that element of 'so watcha gonna do?' The guy could put his gun down and give himself up; Harry waits for him to make the first move. But at the end, he repeats the line with the emphasis you read into it from the start, ie: this time, you really ARE shit out of luck, because I'm going to kill you.
    What do you think?

    By the way, best of luck with The Bridges of Madison County. When the time comes, we'll all be thinking of you.

  5. I like the REAL Deadpool a little better (Wade Wilson).

  6. The Dead Pool was right up there in my opinion. At least as good as Sudden Impact, but not up with The Enforcers (Personnel? That's for asshles). Some of the lines in The Dead Pool are great, like telling the mob boss that he's the mailman, and that if the mail doesn't come through the goon is gona cancel his ass like a stamp. "You're shit outta luck" might not work on it's own, but it works great when used in conjunction with the fortune cookie.

  7. I'd like to see a DIRTY HARRY prequel; circa
    1955. Harry gets his gun from a retiring officer
    and the rest is history!

  8. A Dirty Harry movie where he takes on ISIS and the Black Panthers and sends them to meet their maker in his own style

  9. Of the five Dirty Harry films, The Dead Pool is very much the poor cousin in many ways. But the line "you're shit out luck" IS funny, because its Clint saying it. It's about the only thing that's really memorable about his one.