Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Dead Pool

 It has been years since I last watched a Dirty Harry film. I really wanted to watch all five of the series in order but unfortunately I can't get them all on DVD. I can still remember virtually all of Dirty Harry and Magnum Force because they played quite regularly on telly in the 1980's. Of the other three my memories grow more vague, probably because after Magnum Force the next three films were, lets face it, ordinary.

 The Dead Pool was the last time Clint Eastwood was to play the character. He quite wisely hung up his Harry's trade mark hand howitzer, because by 1988 Eastwood was 58. I think in hindsight thank god, because really, The Dead Pool is a quite unremarkable film. The thing that lurked at the back of mind as I watched this last night, was that it was only four years later he moved from this blandness, to his masterpiece, Unforgiven.

 I grew up in the 1980's thinking Dirty Harry films where the greatest things on Earth. But time hasn't been kind to Harry Callahan. Sure the first two films still stand up well, but in hindsight the character after Magnum Force was taken too far. In all reality The Dead Pool should never have been made. I can't help escape the feeling with Pool, that with its incredible production time of under two months ( February/March 1988 ), Eastwood wanted to rush out a film in which to make a few quick bucks with. What better way to do it than to re-prise Harry Callahan?

 Eastwood and his production company Malpaso are well known for their quick turn around times of their films. This was due to earlier in his career Eastwood getting frustrated with how long some films were made. For instance he was in Yugoslavia for six whole months making Kelly's Heroes. This is what induced him to form Malpaso so he could influence the whole film making process. I mean even though The Dead Pool is an ordinary film, a turn around time of two months is still a staggering achievement.

 When released though Pool was not a commercial success. It made it's money back but it was the series second lest productive outing. And at only 81 minutes long it is also the shortest of the series. I couldn't believe this because 81 minutes really is a rip off, and to day I would be seriously reluctant to pay for a cinema ticket for a feature film of that length. It really is inexcusable and today only an animated feature can really have any excuse for a film of that duration. You can't expect kiddies to sit still in a theatre for much longer can you?

  So the film has a real feel of, 'get it done and dusted, so we can piss off to the golf course asap' about it. The thing is that it isn't bad, or even rubbish, but neither is it good or memorable. It is.....well....bland. It was like eating rice but for the eyes. I finished watching it, ( god I blinked and almost missed it as it was that short!! ), and felt nothing. I wasn't satisfied, entertained, angry, sad,.... nothing. I just had a feeling of total ambiguity.

 But like my other recent Eastwood review on Firefox, I stated the 1980's were quite a barren era for cinema. When you think of any other era you can fire of any number of truly great films. But with the 1980's it is extremely difficult. I watched Paul Newman's brilliant The Verdict recently. That is certainly one, Gandhi of the same year, but then my poor mind is stretched. The Dead Pool really is an example of an era that really seemed to have forgotten what great film making was about. To be sure the Dirty Harry films weren't masterpieces, but the last three of the series were poor to say the least.

  I now think that Eastwood's other legendary anti-hero, The Man With No Name has stood the test of time far better than Harry has. Even as films the 'Dollars Trilogy' stands up better today than any of the Dirty Harry films do. I still like Harry as a character, but I now realise I'm not 18 anymore, and the character alone isn't able to disguise an ordinary film.

 But it isn't all bad news. The premise is quite cool and I liked the idea of a game that bet on which celebrity would drop dead next. The car chase scene is memorable and the idea of a remote controlled car bomb was original ( it was controlled by then world champion " Jammin" Jay Halsey ). Eastwood himself states this was his favorite part of the film, with its obvious nod to that of Steve McQueen's in Bullitt. Both Patricia Clarkson and Liam Neeson were relative new comers to the industry, and both have gone onto higher things. I noticed here that Neeson back then still had a very noticeable Irish accent!!

 This being 1988 the band Guns and Roses were riding high on the back of their 1987 album Appetite For Destruction. The film uses the song Welcome to the Jungle several times. All members of the band received accredited roles, and Slash was filmed firing the harpoon gun Harry later use to kill Rook.
 Also Jim Carrey appeared in his first non-comedy film role. It struck me that whilst there was a lot I remembered about Pool the cast wasn't one of them! But beside an interesting premise, a cool car chase, and several spot the then unknown actors moments, the film is pure blandness. Even Harry waving around his hand canon didn't have the appeal it did when I was a teenager. One other thing got me to was the total unrealism Hollywood portrays. I mean several times Harry is sprayed by no less than two to four guys with Uzis and yet survives the hail of lead. He of course then blows the gunmen away with his monstrosity of a six shooter. I always laugh when I see a bullet riddled car that the hero magically jumps out of!!
 I then sat down and compared Eastwood's 1982 Firefox against 1988's The Dead Pool. Neither are masterpieces let alone memorable Eastwood films. Both of them are indicative of the 1980's, being neither good nor bad, just...nothings really. Eastwood wasn't alone here of course. It is just staggering when you look at such blandness as the The Dead Pool, how Eastwood turned it around several years later. Unforgiven, Mystic River,  Million Dollar Baby, and The Bridges Of Madison County, are all considered some of the greatest films of the last 20 years.

 In all essence then The Dead Pool is an example of a series taking it one film too far. It is a total nothing of a film. I can't call it good or bad, just rice. I watched this as a nostalgia trip and ended up with a cringe worthy viewing experience! At 81 minutes it is disgracefully short, and overall is just another non-entity of a film, from a particularly barren era of cinema.

 In conclusion The Man With No Name really has nothing to fear from Dirty Harry Callahan!!

Click here for a synopsis and more:

And click here for an interesting site on locations used in the series:

 And click here for a superb rant of 1983's, Sudden Impact:

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