The Dead Pool (1988) – Buddy Van Horn

Dirty Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is back for one more go around in 1988’s The Dead Pool. And of all the sequels following Magnum Force, this is probably my favourite of the bunch. It’s a little sleeker, has the best cast since Magnum Force, and Harry isn’t quite as much a racist ass as he has been in the past.

Peter Swan (Liam Neeson) is a horror film director, and also the prime suspect in a series of murders that are occurring around a dead pool – a betting pool between some friends in the film business on which celebrity is going to die. Harry’s name is on that list having made a name for himself over the past few years, and delivering a crime lord to prison.

Swan swears he’s innocent, but too many of the crimes seem like riffs on the plots of his film. With a new partner, Al Quan (Evan C. Kim) at his side, and the beginning of a friendly alliance with the media thanks to the introduction of Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson), Harry is back on the streets of San Francisco.

There are a few noteworthy cameos in the film, a young Jim Carrey plays a rock star, and one of the film’s first victims, and Slash, recognisable with his hair and big hat, is noticeable in the testing of a harpoon gun which sets up the finale of the film. Also spotted at a funeral are the other members of Guns N’ Roses and there is the use of the song Welcome to the Jungle a few times in the film.

There is a bit of commentary on the rise of celebrity culture, and the cost of it, even as Harry continues to dispense ‘justice’ with a lot of collateral damage – and honestly it’s a surprise that more civilians aren’t injured in his escapades.

I quite like seeing Harry a little more mellowed out. Sure he’ll draw down on anyone at anytime, and rarely identifies himself as a police officer before he does so, but the character isn’t quite as vicious and cruel as he once was.

On top of that the film includes some fun sequences that feel like they could only work in the movies, like the remote controlled car bomb sequence. It just makes for a good ride, and a scenic tour of San Fran while Harry and Quan try to elude the killer.

Both Callahan and Eastwood were getting older, it’s been quite some time since the character’s first appearance, and age is telling on the character, though it was refreshing to see that there was a fun sense of humour at play as well as opposed to the dark snide remarks he would deliver with pithy abandon before he pulled a trigger.

My take on the character has definitely changed over the years, and I no longer find him a character to necessarily admire, and their are other Eastwood characters I enjoy more. Maybe it’s time to check in on Gant again, or Philoe. Or maybe go out riding with the Man With No Name again…

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