Evan C. Kim and Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool (1988)

Guns & Harry

In "The Dead Pool", the 5th Dirty Harry movie, we witness a movie critic murdered, it is an in-joke about a real critic who criticised the first "Dirty Harry" movie. Maybe that should be a warning to not criticise this but unfortunately there are elements to "The Dead Pool" I just don't like, mainly the moments of humour which spoil what is really quite a clever movie. I say clever because after 4 movies what can you do with Dirty Harry which is new, well make him a reluctant celebrity and as such part of a sick death list game. It provides a nice basis for plenty of typical Dirty Harry action but those moments of almost humour end up spoiling things ever so slightly.

Having been pivotal in bringing in a San Francisco crime boss Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood - Heartbreak Ridge) not only finds there is a hit out on him but also that he is now a celebrity whether he likes it or not. But whilst investigating the death of star Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey) Harry discovers that his name is now on a list of celebrities who are likely to die and those on the list are mysteriously dying. So whilst having to deal with the press, various hit men who want him dead he also has to work out who is behind the murders of those on the celebrity death list before he becomes the next victim.

Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey in The Dead Pool (1988)

As a basic idea I really like "The Dead Pool" especially with Harry being a reluctant celebrity, it allows for both the same sort of action we expect but a different story. That story has those typical elements, a new partner, a woman he gets close to and of course a robbery which he stops in typical Dirty Harry style. But then we have the mystery of who is killing the celebrities and there is a nice amount of mystery to it because the slight glimpses of the killer we get make us think it is certain people.

But the trouble I have with "The Dead Pool" is a matter of tone and when you have Jim Carrey cast as a heroin addicted star and Liam Neeson as an aggressive director it feels comical. It probably didn't feel as such back in 1988 when "The Dead Pool" came out because in Carrey's case he wasn't the big comedy star he is now but unfortunately now it feels so wrong. It also makes it feel wrong when it comes to certain action especially a car chase scene featuring a remote control car. It maybe a brilliantly filmed scene and probably gave the sales of remote control cars a boost but it feels corny, Dirty Harry trying to outrun a remote control car in his police car, come on this Dirty Harry.

What though is good about "The Dead Pool" is the slight change in Dirty Harry and I don't mean that we have Clint Eastwood playing him wiser and older because he would still rather kill bad guys than question them. Nope what I mean is that whilst still violent and aggressive there is a slight mellowing to his persona, an almost caring side when it comes to those he sort of gets close to. That leads me to Patricia Clarkson who whilst not having a great deal to do does a nice job of playing a persistent reporter whilst Evan C. Kim steals a few scenes as Harry's new partner Insp. Al Quan.

What this all boils down to is that "The Dead Pool" is a nice 5th outing for Dirty Harry with a decent storyline which provides some nice differences whilst holding on to the familiar elements we expect. it is just a shame that some of the lighter moments end up spoiling things, especially when watched now because if these had been made less cheesy "The Dead Pool" would have been a fitting ending for Harry.