Dirty Harry (1971) Review

Verdict: Cool Cop

Good story and cinematography with OK acting.


Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is an inspector who comes across the case of a serial killer, Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) and is bent on capturing him before he manages to kill anymore. Along with his new partner, Chico (Reni Santoni) they have to play the killer’s game in order to save the life of a 14 year old girl. Directed by Don Siegel.

Dirty Harry can be argued as having been the pioneer of cop films which paved the way for many more cop films later on. As this genre is increasingly popular, it is hard to compare and to see how this film works in regards to itself. Keeping in mind that this is a very early cop film I would have to say that it did a pretty good job.

I don’t think I have ever actually seen a young Clint Eastwood before, and it was rather unnerving to see so much likeness of how he looks now compared to then. He did a good job of playing the cool, tough cop who – though is a man of the law, doesn’t really follow it. He judges his morality as higher than others and in the name of justice, does what he thinks is right in order to correct the wrong. Andrew Robinson who plays the killer gives an erratic performance which befitted his character. Very wild and out of control, his ‘crazy’ eyes are characteristic of his character, as are the animalistic screams he makes.

The story is pretty average, with the focus on Harry and his obsession on getting the killer. The film kind of shows that the law isn’t very good at protecting its citizens though, with Harry being depicted as the only one who really cares if the killer is caught (with the exception of his partner Chico). But the story was pretty engaging and had good action scenes.

There was also some pretty great shots in this. We get some pretty good point of view shots from Harry and the killer’s perspective. But noticeably, the most impactful shot is probably the one where Harry is standing on the bridge as the bus travels on the road below. For some reason it reminds me of the terminator, what with his sunglasses and all.

However this film does have some issues with race, gender and social hierarchy. For one, all the high ranking officers/ powerful figures are white and the robbers who appear briefly are black. The killer himself while is white, is feminized in the way he walks and screams while Harry is the epitome of masculinity with his calm demeanour and low voice. There are hardly any women in this film too, except to be victims or someone’s wife, not to mention that the killer is made out to be homophobic as he targets a gay man in one of the scenes. Furthermore the many reasons why dirty Harry is called dirty comes into play, not just as a referral to him doing all the dirty jobs, but also because he is a sort of peeping tom.

To sum-up:
PROS: Acting, action, cinematography
CONS: Ideology – race, gender, social hierarchy

I give this a 7/10.

Have you seen Dirty Harry? Rate it out of 5 stars above or leave a comment below!


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