Locke's Head Shot
7 years after "The Enforcer" 1983 saw Clint Eastwood return to the familiar character of Harry Callahan and this time Eastwood also took to the director's chair for "Sudden Impact". Now whilst for some "Sudden Impact" is the best of the "Dirty Harry" movies for me it is just average, not bad but just working through the same formula which we had seen before. Yes there is a change, this time around the villain of the piece is a woman who is killing in revenge, taking scumbag rapists off of the street and in doing so is sort of in tune with Harry's own ideals. But beyond this change what we get is very similar to what we saw in the previous movies.
Having once again upset his superiors with his own brand of crime prevention Det. Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood - Bronco Billy) is ordered to take some leave and when that doesn't stop him having to deal with bad guys who try and kill him he is dispatched to San Paulo to do some research on a killing, in the hope that being out of the city will allow the dust to settle. But not only does trouble follow Harry to the town but he finds this one killing turning into more and in someway maybe related to the police as a series of men show up killed with a bullet to their heads and their balls.
To be fair the previous sequels had run to a similar formula and so in a way you sort of expected the same from "Sudden Impact" and so we get an opening which basically sees Harry winding up his superiors, upsetting various people and foiling a robbery. All of which mirrors the previous movies and whilst for some watching Harry foil a robbery at a diner will be entertaining it does end up a little corny because it's just a rehash of what went on before.
At the same time as being reintroduced to Harry and his rather unique ways of upholding the law we also learn of a serial killer, a woman who shoots men in the genitals. Now the annoying thing here is that we have to learn who this serial killer is because we need to know their motive and so early on we learn that it is a rape victim looking to pick off each of the men who gang raped her and her sister 10 years earlier, but it does spoil the fun of trying to work out who it could be. On the plus side this sets up the interesting issue that she is basically taking the law into her own hands to rid the street of rapist scumbags, something that Harry would do himself. And so you wonder what Harry will do once he discovers who the serial killer is and why they are killing, will he uphold the law or let them off.
But that is just part of the underlying story to "Sudden Impact" as we have Harry forced to go on leave and when that doesn't stop him getting into trouble he is sent to the coastal town of San Paulo to investigate this case, away from the city and all the heat from those who want his badge or want him dead. And whilst there he discovers that there maybe some connection between the case and the Chief of Police who seems hell bent on getting him out of there as quick as possible. Sadly like with learning who the serial killer is we also learn the connection too quickly and this has the knock on effect of it being a waiting game, us waiting for Harry to have his suspicions confirmed. And then a wait till he ends up confronting various bad guys in a typical action packed ending, although in fairness Eastwood keeps this big finale quite punchy by not prolonging it with superfluous chases.
So in a way "Sudden Impact" is disappointing because the nature of the storyline means we get to know important things far too early and so are basically waiting. But then there are some stand out things and Eastwood's direction, his styling whilst understandably reminiscent of Don Siegel also has his own touches. He also delivers the iconic line "Go ahead make my day" whilst giving us an even bigger gun for us to be impressed by and my does Harry have one big gun and he certainly knows how to use it!
As for the acting well whilst Eastwood plays Harry Callahan in exactly the same way we saw in the previous movies with him being both dangerous and charming the actual danger side of things seems to be toned down. Maybe it's because when Harry pins a scumbag against a wall and threatens him it is no longer a surprise that it feels toned down but the impact of his volatility seems to be missing. And sadly whilst I like Sandra Locke as an actress the way she plays the killer Jennifer Spencer seems wrong. I am sure the intention was to play her as this cool, emotionless woman seeking revenge but being as emotionless as Locke plays her just doesn't seem right for a woman who is confronting her rapists.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Sudden Impact" is entertaining and watching Harry Callahan upset his superiors whilst dealing with scumbags is always welcome it just doesn't really grab me in the same way as the first two movies did. But it does set up the interesting premise of having Harry hanging to deal with a woman who is basically looking for revenge by killing rapists.