Relentless rogue cop "Dirty Harry" Callahan finds himself chasing a ritualistic killer to a rural Northern California town. When Harry is spinning his wheels, it's his new partner Horace Kind that steers him in the right d... more »irection. Together, they race to catch the killer in a head-on collision of good vs. evil.« less
"The vigilante has long held a fascination for audiences, inasmuch as it evokes a sense of swift, sure justice; good triumphs over evil and the bad guy gets his deserts. It is, in fact, one of the things that has made the character of Dirty Harry Callahan (as played by Clint Eastwood) so popular. He carries a badge and works within the law, but at heart, Harry is a vigilante, meting out justice "his" way, which often puts him in conflict with his own superiors, as well as the criminals he's pursuing. But it's what draws the audience; anyone who's ever been bogged down in bureaucratic nonsense of one kind or another, delights in seeing someone cut through the red tape and get on with it-- even if it's only on the screen. And that satisfaction derived from seeing justice done-- and quickly-- is one of the elements that makes "Sudden Impact," directed by and starring Eastwood, so successful. In this one, the fourth of the series, while working a homicide, Harry encounters a bona fide vigilante at work-- an individual whose brand of justice parallels his own, with one exception: Whoever it is, he's definitely not carrying a badge.In his own inimitable way, Inspector Callahan has once again ended up on the bad side of the department and is ordered to take some vacation time. So he does; as only "Dirty Harry" can. In a small town north of San Francisco, Harry finds himself smack dab in the middle of a homicide case, which he quickly links to a recent murder in San Francisco because of the unique M.O. employed by the perpetrator. Unaccountably, Harry encounters resistance from the local Police Chief, Jannings (Pat Hingle), who advises him to take his big city tactics and methods elsewhere. Not one to be deterred, however, Harry continues his investigation, which ultimately involves a beautiful and talented young artist, Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke). Gradually, Harry discovers a link between the victims; the burning question, though, is where does Jennifer Spencer fit into the picture?Eastwood is in top form here, both in front of and behind the camera, and it is arguably the second best of the five-film series, right behind the original "Dirty Harry." It had been seven years since the last "Harry" offering ("The Enforcer," 1976), but Eastwood steps right back into the character with facility and renewed vigor. And this one definitely benefits from having him in the director's chair, as he is able to recapture the essence of, not only his own character, but that "spirit" that made these films so successful, and he does it by knowing the territory and establishing a continuity that all but erases that seven year gap between #s 3 and 4. As with all the films he directs, Eastwood sets a deliberate pace that works perfectly for this material and creates just enough tension to keep it interesting and involving from beginning to end. The screenplay, by Joseph Stinson, is well written and formulated to that distinctive "Dirty Harry" style; the dialogue is snappy and the story itself (conceived by Charles B. Pierce and Earl E. Smith) is the most engaging since the original "Dirty Harry," as it successfully endeavors to play upon the very personal aspects of the drama, rather than entirely upon the action. The characters are well drawn and convincing, and, of course, this is the film that gave us one of Harry's best catch-phrases: "Go, ahead-- make my day..."As Harry, Clint Eastwood perfectly embodies all of the elements that make this character so popular: He lives by a personal moral code, a true individual made of the kind of stuff we envision as that of the pioneers who settled this country and made America what it is today. Harry personifies that sense of freedom and justice we all strive for and hold so dear, possibly more so today than ever before. No matter who we are or where we come from, there's undeniably a part of us that wants to be Harry, or at least have him around. "Dirty Harry" is an icon of the cinema, and it's impossible to envision anyone but Eastwood portraying him; for better or worse, Eastwood "is" Dirty Harry, without question, just as Sean Connery is James Bond and Basil Rathbone, Sherlock Holmes.Sondra Locke is entirely effective here in the role of Jennifer Spencer, a young woman wronged and out for vengeance, or as she sees it, "justice." She manages to bring a hard-edged determination laced with vulnerability to her character, with a convincing, introspective approach that is far beyond what is typical of the "action" genre. Even amid the violence, Locke keeps her focus on Jennifer and the traumatic events that have brought her to this stage of her life. Her portrayal makes a perfect complement to Eastwood's Harry, and becomes, in philosophy and deed, something of his counterpart.In supporting roles, two performances stand out: Paul Drake, as Mick, creates the best "psycho" since Andy Robinson's dynamic portrayal of the serial killer in the original "Dirty Harry." With actually very limited screen time, Drake establishes a genuinely disconcerting presence that is believable and convincing, which adds much to the purely visceral response of the audience. This is the guy you can't wait to see Harry take care of in the end. Also effective is Audrie J. Neenan, who makes her character, Ray Parkins, the epitome of the proverbial "low life," who can be found in any bar in any city. It's a performance that evokes a gut-level response, and it adds greatly to the credibility of the film, in that it helps provide that necessary sense of realism.The supporting cast includes Albert Popwell (Horace), Mark Kevloun (Bennett) and Nancy Parsons (Mrs. Kruger). With a perfect blend of drama and action, "Sudden Impact" dispenses justice that is a fulfilling respite from reality; the perfect justice of a not-so-perfect world, that makes for a satisfying cinematic experience."
WHATs THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY
gobirds2 | New England | 07/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first saw this film I thought Clint Eastwood had flipped out. He took the realistic base from the first three "Dirty Harry" films and replaced it with some type of pseudo surrealistic parody that seemed so repulsive it bordered on bad taste to say the very least. However, after repeated viewing it started to grow on me and I actually wanted to watch over and over. I couldn't get enough of it. It certainly was not the same Dirty Harry but it had a very blunt approach for dealing with crime and criminals. In the first three films the bureaucrats constantly accused Harry of crossing the line yet the audience knew Harry was right and the bureaucrats were just a bunch of crybaby liberals (at least that's what the directors wanted us to think). In SUDDEN IMPACT Clint Eastwood is at the helm. Eastwood proposes a question to the audience: You like crazy? Do you want to see crazy? I'm going to give you crazy. Filmmaking is a business and like a good businessman Eastwood gives his audience what they want. Yet Eastwood is no fool. Without artistic merit this film would have been a failure. Eastwood is playing the auteur filmmaker here and he is very successful at it. This film is way ahead of its time. The fabric of a sane society is being pulled apart. Family values, if you like, are out the window. Eastwood collects the most vile, repugnant and repulsive villains for this film that literally defines the meaning of trailer trash. The Mafia hoodlums at the beginning of the film look like impotent choirboys compared to the bunch of wacko amusement park crazies he ends up exterminating by the film's end. If Eastwood had not directed this film with his offbeat humor and unconventional style, if he had played it as a straight drama, the critics would have screamed murder. This is a good film. It's a stand-alone modern day apocalyptic tale delivered for your approval by Dirty Harry. I can still remember Reni Santoni asking, "Why do they call you Dirty Harry?" Now we really know."
Nearing the End of the Callahan Trail
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 03/31/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the fourth of five "Dirty Harry" films in which Eastwood stars as a San Francisco police detective. By the time the last appeared (The Dead Pool, in 1988), Eastwood had aged and times had changed but Callahan's non-negotiable values and unorthodox methods had remained essentially the same. The title of this film really makes no sense: None of the actions has a sudden impact. On the contrary, directed by Eastwood, the plot gradually develops to the inevitable climax. After still another controversial incident, Callahan is required to take an extended leave-of-absence and finds himself in a small coastal town where he meets Jennifer Spencer (Sandra Locke), a serious painter with even more serious emotional problems. Years ago, she and her sister were the victims of an especially violent rape; the sister remains comatose in an institution. Spencer is determined to locate and kill the rapists. One of them is the son of the local sheriff (Pat Hingle) who, for obvious reasons, discourages any interest in the case. He especially resents Callahan, "a big shot city detective" who attempts to investigate one of the several local murders. Of special interest to me are two evil characters, Ray (Audrie Neenan) and Mick (Paul Drake), with whom Callahan has his final confrontation. Both are despicable and thus deserving of Callahan's singular application of justice. In this and other films, Locke's acting skills are clunky, at times almost laughable, especially when juxtaposed with the performances by Neenan and Drake. Bruce Surtees' cinematography is outstanding. His previous work includes Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me (both in 1971) and The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976). He teamed up with Eastwood later with Pale Rider (1985). Surtees' excellent work plus several memorable scenes explain my rating which would have been higher, had the plot made more sense and had another actress (other than Ali MacGraw) portrayed Spencer. To me at least, both Callahan and the series are by now getting a tad long in the tooth."
WHY DID SHE WAIT SO LONG?
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 05/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One can't help but understand Sondra Locke's obsessive desire for revenge on the scumbags who raped her and her sister...but why did she wait ten years to do so? Oh, well, anyway...SUDDEN IMPACT is the fourth Dirty Harry movie and Clint's first direction of such. It is brutal, and while not a classic film, it does pack an impact. The villains are some of the worst, with Audrie J. Neenan and Paul Drake standing out. One has to wonder how Bradford Dillman has kept his job over the years. Eastwood continues to epitomize vigilante justice, and his direction keeps the movie interesting when it shouldn't be. To the movie's credit, when it appears that Locke might be charged for her murders, we really are on her side. Perhaps the second best of the series, I enjoyed the impact of SUDDEN IMPACT."
AN IMMEDIATE PLACE IN POP CULTURE
Gregory Saffady | Michigan | 01/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"SUDDEN IMPACT gained immediate fame and was vaulted into pop culture's stratosphere with the line: "Go ahead, make my day!" Frankly, I thought, "Smith and Wesson and me," was better. It was a joy to see the return of Harry Callahan after a 7 year absence. SUDDEN IMPACT is a somewhat cliched thriller that does have its share of good moments (the .44 magnum auto-mag, Meathead, JAMF). I never considered any of the films after DIRTY HARRY to be sequels, more appropriately chapters in the saga. Much better than THE ENFORCER and THE DEAD POOL. Clint should have stopped here."