http://imageshack.us MAGNUM FORCE (1973, Ted Post)
The first Dirty Harry sequel, and more or less a comment on it. The villains, a group of rookie vigilante cops, are doing what Harry was doing in the first film himself: they refuse to play it by the rules when disposing of the scum of society that threatens to circumvent the law. Only they do it in a more crude, criminal way.
It takes some time to get going (there’s a very silly scene set at an airport, echoing a much better scene from the first film), but once it does, it passes the time quickly. Clint and his Magnum are a good couple and it was also a good idea to cast a ‘softy’ like David Soul as the most dangerous of the vigilante cops. A shooting contest, involving him and Eastwood, is about the best part of the picture. Somehow they manage to transmit the feeling that they are two ice-cold sharpshooters who’ll face each other in a deadly duel near the end. Ironically, we won’t have this duel, or better: the duel we get is not what we were hoping for. It’s not the only drawback of a film that is – as said – quite enjoyable, but fails to be anything more than that.
The first film was marked by a nervous kind of tension, giving viewers the impression that they were personally menaced by the maniac Dirty Harry was after. Dirty Harry confronted us with some of our own darker sides: deep down we’re all a bit dirty, deep down we all want to do it to them before they do it to us. We sympathized wholeheartedly with Dirty Harry, and somehow this was an uncomfortable feeling. The problem with Magnum Force is that it’s nearly completely uninvolving. We never get the feeling Harry is tempted to join this bunch of vigilantes, if only because the aim of the entire film seems to be to soften his character a little. In this aspect it would’ve been nice if a bit more had been done with Mitchell Ryan character of Harry’s colleague with psychological problems. It’s clear that the rookie vigilantes must have a mentor, and it would have complicated things if this mentor were a friend of Harry ‘s (in one scene he even hints at the possibility Ryan is the person they’re looking for), but the script opts for another solution (one that doesn’t really pay off). The script was written by John Milius and Michael Cimino, two guys not known for their subtlety. On the contrary, their names are usually identified with a certain rudeness & crudeness, and in this aspect, they certainly do deliver. But that was what we were hoping for, of course.