The Dead Pool (1988)
The Dead Pool (1988)

Genre: Action and Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: July 13th, 1988 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Buddy Van Horn Actors: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Darwin Gillett, Anthony Charnota, Jim Carrey




or this fifth and final Dirty Harry movie, the music has changed significantly – from the upbeat jazz common to the ’70s to heavier electric guitar rhythms – though it’s still composed by Lalo Schifrin. And the the streets of San Francisco have become more convoluted and dotted with lights. But Homicide Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is still the target of regular assassination attempts from gangsters unhappy with his testimony and his high rate of catching crooks. “Swell.”

Callahan continues to cost the police department thousands of dollars when hoods attack him in his unmarked car, much to the chagrin of the Public Relations manager who insists that the cop’s job is to promote the positive image of the force. But Callahan has no desire – or time – for being a poster boy. When Al Quan (Evan C. Kim) becomes his new partner, they begin investigating the death of rock star Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey, in a role so early that he’s credited as “James Carrey,” though he’s still unable to perform a death scene without overacting tremendously), who was filming a music video (for feature-length picture “Hotel Satan”) under the direction of Peter Swan (Liam Neeson). Coincidentally, his name appeared on a list of celebrities with a high probability of dying – a “dead pool” game played by Swan and a few other filmmakers. And Callahan just so happens to also be on that list…

Though it has been five years since the last entry in the series, the very specific formula hasn’t changed much. The main murder mystery is presented first for a slight difference, but there’s still time to transition to a random holdup at a Chinese restaurant, summarily and extravagantly foiled by Harry – with the standard, extreme loss of life (including a large fishtank). And the actual killer isn’t revealed until about halfway into the picture. To further complicate matters, KWSF Channel 8 news reporter Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson) wants an exclusive story on the renowned inspector, though it’s little more than a flimsy excuse to give the aging flatfoot a fresh romance subplot. And all the while, additional attempts are made on Harry’s life, allowing him to brandish his enormous firearm and gun down nameless, faceless goons.

Running nearly half-an-hour shorter than the previous entry (“Sudden Impact”), it feels as if the writers have completely run out of ideas for utilizing one of the most popular vigilantes in cinema history. Dirty Harry has never been more underused. In fact, there’s more of a focus on expressing commentary on the cutthroat bloodlust of the media and the hyped savagery of film critics than on nabbing a crook through police procedural investigation routines. Nevertheless, there’s something simple and comfortable about Eastwood films; it takes little effort to understand his motives and anticipate his unshakably levelheaded reactions. Plus, a remote control car chase, no matter how improbable (the coordination necessary to drive both a toy car and a real car simultaneously is virtually unfathomable), and an over-the-top final showdown, are genuinely amusing.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10