The Dead Pool

Not to be confused with Ryan Reynolds’ notoriously hyper-verbal superhero, The Dead Pool proved to be the fifth and final case for Clint Eastwood’s ever more grizzled San Francisco cop, “Dirty” Harry Callahan. After 17 years of ventilating psychos with a gun that had a more questionable discharge than Paul Rubens, Clint was hitting 58 by the time Harry’s questionable morals were enjoying their final bout of screen time and changing styles and times had slowly eroded the edge of Don Siegel’s brutal orginal into something noticably more silly.
Gone was any kind of moral counterpoint to Harry’s particular brand of police work and in its place was your bog standard 80’s cop movie that wasn’t that different to the countless imitators that had emerged at the time – for example, the fact that Stallone’s blatent Dirty Harry ripoff Cobra was released two years before The Dead Pool is something that just feels wrong. Nevertheless, Eastwood drew his Magnum one last time in order to hopefully have his day made and instead gave us a movie that arguably should have known its limitations instead…

Progressively creaky detective Harry Callahan has his hands full after the mob boss he’s recently locked away puts a hit out on the sneering hero, however, the fact that random goombah’s want to shut him down is furthest from his mind at the moment as he’s got himself mixed up in the apparent overdose of rock star Johnny Squares on the set of a cheesy horror fkick. This clues him onto something called the Dead Pool, a betting game that was being played by certain members of the film crew including director and shifty piece of shit, Peter Swan, in which the rules mean you select a list of celebrities and hope they all die off before your opponent’s. As in bad taste as this is, Harry can’t help but notice that his name is sitting on Swan’s picks and when other names, not to mention other players, start turning up murdered, the detective catches on that there’s a serial killer at work.
Diverting his time between hitmen, serial killers and shooting any armed robbers he happens to randomly stumble upon during his day to day; Harry also finds himself in a love/hate relationship with over eager news reporter Samantha Walker who is desperate for a sensational scoop for her network but hasn’t really considered exactly how much of a shit-magnet he really is and finds herself in the same amount of danger that Callahan’s brand new partner, Al Quan, is increasingly wary of.
Ducking assassination attempts that involve everything from good old fashioned bullets to exploding remote controlled cars, Harry has to wrap thisxshit up before he himself finds himself wading into the deep end of the Dead Pool…

Despite  containing all of the usual casual brutality that goes on in your average Dirty Harry flick, The Dead Pool manages to easily be the least of the series chiefly because at this point its impossible to take them remotely seriously any more. Big Clint can easily outrun a man half his age, can out draw anyone who stands before him and still has enough cajones to make Patricia Clarkson’s reporter not only fall for him, but even manages to reverse her opinion on the morals of her job despite the fact he shot up a crowded Chinese restaurant barely a day earlier. The movie even has composer Lalo Schifrin give Callahan a triumphant fanfare as he emerges from a car wreck to blow away his would be assailants, which is all the more damning when you realise that the vastly superior In The Line Of Fire was barely five years away, but not everything can be squarely laid at the feet of Eastwood. While the film admittedly tries something different with it’s bad guy this time – choosing to use a more whodunnit style approach to the usual serial killer shenanigans – it’s still as horribly overblown as a Simpsons parody with a wildly overacting antagonist who is neither scary or particularly interesting. The soon-to-be famous supporting cast don’t manage to help matters much either as Jim Carrey, who tackles his role of strung out, junkie rock star Johnny Squares with the same level of self control he brought to Ace Ventura and the Grinch, has a gurning, death scene freak out that is impossible to take seriously. However, that turns out to be the very model of subtlety compared to Liam Neeson’s dick hole of a director who barks his lines in a flamboyant cockney accent while wearing an astonishingly bad ponytail.
Adding to the chaos is some lazy stereotyping (Of course Harry’s Asian-American partner knows Kung Fu!), some heavy handed plotting and character beats that simply make no logical sense: Since Harry doesn’t seem to be with Sandra Locke’s rapist murdering female lead from Sudden Impact anymore (that must have been a fun breakup), his choice of date this time round is equally as questionable as Patricia Clarkson’s pushy journalist seems like the worst fit for Callahan I could possibly imagine.
However, all these filmmaking tropes eventually congeal to form silly, but reasonably entertaining cop thriller that ends up being more fun the less seriously you take it. How else am I supposed to take a scene where Clint gets into a car chase where he’s being pursued by a remote controlled car packed full of plastic explosive? Do you mean to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be visibly amused by the fact that the killer can keep control of a vehicle during a high speed chase while simultaneously maneuvering a toy to follow it’s intended victim – we’re talking some serious multi tasking right there…

Directed by ex stunt man Buddy Van Horne (because with a name like that, you’d have to be either a stuntman or porn actor), The Dead Pool is about as far away from the orginal Dirty Harry as you could get without saddling Callahan with a fucking robot butler or something. However, it isn’t without its charms and the trademark squint of Eastwood is still worth something, even when he’s aiming a harpoon gun at a bad guy big enough to kill Moby Dick with one shot.
Harry’s got one left in the chamber to be sure, but with all things being equal, its mostly a dud…

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