Dirty Harry has an uncanny – almost bordering on unsettling – power to captivate. Once you start watching it’s difficult to turn away. It all has to do with the way the narrative is constructed. The film is very close to forty years old (a thought that borders on horrific, how quickly time passes) and yet it avoids every cliché. It misses every pathetic turn such a story could take. It holds a solid, stoic line, and the result is an inordinately impressive story that seems almost timeless.
It’s very well shot. It’s calm, restrained, which is perfect for the film’s gradual, brutal build. It never attempts to be flashy and it never attempts to wow or entertain with a moving camera. The most ‘risqué’ shot employed is a shaky point-of-view glance up the side of a building. It’s also very well written. Much of the dialogue has become iconic. It can now seem a little played out, hackneyed after forty years of repetition, but I can’t hold what became pop culture against the original work. The acting is great overall. Clint Eastwood
does a fantastic job. He seems to embody the character; he is the character – the role suits his demeanor extraordinarily well. His signature facial expressions from his time in the Western genre are well employed here. Reni Santoni
(Chico) does a good job of the balancing act against Eastwood. The score is dated, as well as being a little presumptuous, but its implementation is sparing and in the right places. The result is acceptable. The action is great. The film’s plot is interesting, entertaining. As aforementioned it captures and it doesn’t let go.
Yes, some things about this film are dated – the aesthetic; the hairstyles; costuming; set design. But those are homogeneous to the time period. It’s no problem. This film is great. The atmosphere and the story still stun. It is certainly on the shortlist of best films ever made.