Top critical review
on 24 February 2014
"Dirty Harry" was a gritty, brilliant suspense movie. "Magnum Force" was more of a Hollywood product, but still a solid timeless thriller.
Sadly "The Enforcer" is the first misstep in the classic Dirty Harry series, skewing the series in all the wrong directions -- we've got dated villains, a weird soundtrack, and an oddly defanged Harry dealing with TV-drama woes (oh no, he's got a WOMAN partner! And she's BY THE BOOK!). Clint Eastwood is as cool as ever, but he seems to be sleepwalking through large portions of the story.
After getting in trouble (again) for using excessive force, Harry (Eastwood) ends up exiled to the personnel department, where he's forced to deal with inexperienced cops being made inspectors. But when his newest partner, Frank DiGiorgio (John Mitchum), is fatally injured by an extremist group called the People's Revolutionary Strike (what?), Harry is launched back into the fray.
To his dismay, his new partner is Inspector Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), who has never made an arrest or worked a real case. But because she's a woman, the publicity-hungry mayor wants her on the case. And when a bomb is set off in the Hall of Justice, the uneasy partners are forced to go after the people responsible -- with shocking and tragic results.
"The Enforcer" doesn't really feel much like the previous two Dirty Harry movies. In fact, it sometimes feels more like an overlong episode of a '70s cop TV show -- just look at the whole subplot about Harry getting an "odd couple" partner who, of course, complements him well. And let's face it, the whole revolutionary bomber thing has not aged well, nor are any of villains very memorable.
And James Fargo doesn't really inject much life into the lackluster story. There are some humorous moments that elicit laughter (Freddie the Fainter), but the more script isn't as witty or tight as you would expect. And the action scenes are completely derailed by the soundtrack -- we get this weird cheery jazz music that sounds completely out of place. Whose idea was that?
That isn't to say that there aren't some powerful scenes -- there is a very intense scene when Harry speaks to a dying friend, and Eastwood pulls it off with a real sense of repressed rage and grief. But they're too few and far between.
Eastwood himself seems to be going through this one on autopilot, probably because Harry seems oddly defanged in this one. Oh, he's still awesome and hard-boiled, but he just doesn't seem as menacing or independent here. Tyne Daly does a pretty good job as Kate, though, and the inexperienced but brave cop does complement Eastwood's hard-bitten Harry well. Too bad she didn't appear in any future movies.
"The Enforcer" stumbles badly by having very little in common with the previous two Dirty Harry movies -- it feels strangely generic, as if it were a copy of a copy of a Clint Eastwood movie. Watch only if you want to see the complete series.