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Clint Eastwood

Every ‘Dirty Harry’ Movie Ranked Worst To Best

The legendary Clint Eastwood turns 92 this year, and it seems like after one of the longest careers in Hollywood, he’s finally settling down. It’s ironic that Eastwood’s retirement comes thirty years after his film Unforgiven was released; the western epic was seemingly the “summation” of all of his characters up until that point, but Eastwood continued to direct and act for another three decades. Eastwood’s final film Cry Macho was released in theaters and on HBO Max last fall, but if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s to count him out of the game entirely.

Before he stepped behind the camera for the first time with Play Misty For Me, Eastwood gained international acclaim thanks to his breakout performance in Sergio Leone’s “The Man With No Name Trilogy.” It was hardly the last time he’d portray a grim, masochistic anti-hero. 1971’s Dirty Harry changed the course of action cinema with its gritty intensity.

Compared to the lighter action farce that was popular in the ‘60s, the Dirty Harry series grounded its depiction of true crime in reality. Eastwood’s character Harry Callahan became one of his most iconic characters; he’s still associated with some of the hard-boiled detective’s most memorable one-liners.

Dirty Harry was followed by four sequels, and the entire series is now streaming on HBO Max. While it’s inevitable that every franchise will be rebooted at some point, it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to fill Eastwood’s shoes. Here are all five Dirty Harry movies, ranked worst to best.

5. The Dead Pool (1988)

While the original Dirty Harry stood out for its commitment to realism, the final film in the series pushed the franchise closer to absurdity. Callahan is known to make some smirky comments, but The Dead Pool is so focused on coining catchphrases that any semblance of stakes is absent. The film follows Callahan’s mission to hunt down a serial killer that targets prominent public figures, including himself. He’s tasked with protecting the gossip journalist Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson).

At 91 minutes, The Dead Pool is light on any actual mystery. The film goes to exaggerated lengths to frame the music video director Peter Swan (Liam Neeson) as the culprit that it’s obvious there will be a twist at some point. Even Eastwood seems bored by the eventual revelation. The Dead Pool isn’t unwatchable, as a memorable over-the-top performance by Jim Carrey at least makes it enjoyable, but it’s the most forgettable in the series.

4. The Enforcer (1976)

While the first two Dirty Harry films are certainly landmarks of action cinema, they’re first and foremost detective stories. Callahan was an engaging character because he was actually solving the case alongside the audience, and the films did a good job at blending suspense within the setpieces. This started to disappear by the third film The Enforcer, which goes the shoot em’ up route instead.

The Enforcer focuses on Callahan’s search for the elusive crime boss Bobby Maxwell (DeVeren Bookwalter), and for the most part the “cat and mouse” premise is entertaining. By the third installment, Callahan’s initial sense of honor became more implausible given the ruthlessness of the material, but the film does at least offer a different perspective. Callahan teams up with the new character Inspector Kate Moore (Tay Daly), and for once one of his partners actually questions his worldview.

3. Sudden Impact (1983)

The fourth film in the series was the only installment that Eastwood directed himself. Having already been in the director’s chair for over a decade, Eastwood had found his groove telling fast-paced stories with frequently disturbing material. While Sudden Impact is just as action-packed as The Enforcer, it’s by far the bloodiest installment. Eastwood was able to retain some gravitas to the series after The Enforcer pushed it further into camp.

Sudden Impact picks up with an older and more cynical Callahan, who for once somewhat sympathizes with his chief target. The con artist Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Lock) takes vengeance on a gang of traffickers that committed horrible acts of violence against her, and Callahan can empathize with her desire for justice. The sexual politics and depiction of assault haven’t aged well, but it was a more mature theme to tackle that indicated Eastwood’s more ambitious aspirations as a filmmaker.

2. Magnum Force (1973)

It was honestly a fairly difficult decision as to which film would take the top spot. Magnum Force is an excellent neo-noir crime thriller, and tackles prevalent themes of police corruption and conspiracy. Although the later entries in the series used Callahan’s conflicts with authority for comic relief, Magnum Force put him up against the systemic coverup within the San Francisco Police Department. He’s always been a maverick, but for once, Callahan actually felt like an outsider within his profession. The sharp script by Apocalypse Now and Conan the Barbarian scribe John Milus is the most thoughtful of the five films.

Callahan begins tracking down a group of vigilante cops that enact their own, cruel form of “justice;” as he uncovers the violent abuse of the badge, Callahan is forced to question his own tactics. As he weighs deeper into the conspiracy, Callahan discovers that the entire force he’s dedicated his life to is facing serious questions of legitimacy, and his entire career may have been in vain. Hal Halbrook delivers a genuinely terrifying performance as the villainous insider Lieutenant Neil Briggs. Holbrook’s dramatic background made Briggs a cut above the “villain-of-the-week” style antagonists of the other sequels.

1. Dirty Harry (1971)

As underrated as Magnum Force is, it can’t quite match the impact of the original classic. Dirty Harry doesn’t completely absolve Callahan’s behavior or lionize his worldview; it simply pits him within a deadly chase to take down the best villain of the series, the sniper Scorpio (Andy Robinson). Scorpio’s precise assassinations are methodically incorporated throughout, and the film doesn’t sensationalize the acts of realistic violence for the sake of being a crowd pleaser.

Dirty Harry was directed by Don Siegel, a Hollywood veteran whose acclaimed filmography includes the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Escape From Alcatraz, and The Shootist. Siegel takes time to develop Callahan’s worldview, and explores his frustrations with inaction when Scorpio threatens innocent civilians. While all the films are products of the era in which they were released, Dirty Harry has more in common with the gritty New Hollywood crime dramas like Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico than it does just another star vehicle.

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood May Replace Steven Spielberg as ‘American Sniper’ Director

American Sniper – based on the late Chris Kyle’s memoir “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History” – has attracted some big Hollywood talent, ever since Bradley Cooper’s 22nd & Indiana production company picked up the rights in 2012 (with Cooper attaching himself as the star and producer). Case in point, Cooper’s Silver Linings Playbook writer/director David O. Russell was reported as being the first serious contender in consideration for the helming job on Sniper.

Russell has decided to look elsewhere, where it concerns the possible followup to his next project: the true-story historical dramedy American Hustle (also starring Cooper). Steven Spielberg appeared to be all-ready to commit as director on American Sniper back in May of 2013, but he then dropped out around three months later.

Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. wants American Sniper to begin filming by the first quarter of 2014. That could mean the studio intends to release the movie during the subsequent awards season; or, at least, have the Sniper adaptation ready in time to make an Oscar-qualifying limited theatrical run in December next year.

However, in order for that to be feasible, WB is going to need a director known for working fast, efficiently and effectively to captain the American Sniper ship – which may be part of the reason why the studio has begun “tentative negotiations” with Clint Eastwood, so as to have the Oscar-winning legend take the helm. If a deal is struck, then Eastwood will begin filming his Jersey Boys musical adaptation at the conclusion of this month (August 2013, at the time of writing this), before he wraps up production a couple months later and then jumps head-first into principal photography on Sniper.

Kyle’s American Sniper book – detailing how the former Navy SEAL went “from Texas rodeo cowboy to expert marksman and feared assassin” – has been adapted into movie script form by Jason Dean Hall. The latter’s artistic credibility took a hit this past week, due to the poor critical reception for Paranoia (which Hall co-wrote). I’m taking the time to note this because Eastwood has a tendency to direct scripts with potential – something that Hall’s American Sniper script draft clearly has (given the talent it has managed to attract).

Problem is, Clint the director is able to work faster because he skips on polishing or fine-tuning the scripts he works from, as has become increasingly noticeable in his more recent films (see: Invictus, J. Edgar) – meaning, he may not be the right guy to give Hall’s American Sniper script draft any necessary tweaks it needs to realize its full promise. Moreover, Eastwood’s no-budge directorial temperament often gives rise to a slow-paced and soulfully-morose final product – but is that the right approach to Kyle’s story, passing over how respectful Eastwood would be towards his subject?

How about it, then: Clint Eastwood to direct American Sniper, yay or nay?

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood to Direct ‘Jersey Boys’ Film?

These days, actor/director Clint Eastwood is best known as the filmmaker behind hard-hitting dramas like Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. However, the former Dirty Harry has been looking to try his hand at a very different genre for quite a while – the musical.

For years, Eastwood has been developing a remake of A Star Is Born, which was most recently brought to the big screen in 1976 with Barbara Streisand in the lead. Eastwood’s version – which would be the third remake of the original 1937 production – was set to star Beyoncé Knowles. However, Knowles has since dropped out of the project, leaving it in a state of limbo for now.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eastwood will instead shift his focus over to another musical project with the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production Jersey Boys. The plot focuses on the rise and fall of musical group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and uses the group’s music to tell its story. Jon Favreau had previously been attached to direct the film.

If Eastwood takes on Jersey Boys, the film would likely be his next directorial project, followed (presumably) by A Star Is Born. The latter film is currently courting Grammy-winning jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding to star, though the project has also faced difficulty in casting its male lead. Sean Penn is among the most recent crop of actors being discussed for the role.

Eastwood’s decision to move on from A Star Is Born is a wise one, considering that project looks like it will take a while to gain any traction. Besides, a filmmaker as accomplished as Eastwood can lend just the right amount of gravitas to something like Jersey Boys. After last summer’s Rock of Ages failed to score at the box office, audiences may need convincing to check out another “jukebox musical.”

Do you think Eastwood is a good fit for Jersey Boys? Let us know in the comments section below.

Stay tuned to Screen Rant for the latest news on the Jersey Boys movie as this story develops.

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Clint Eastwood

‘Trouble with the Curve’ Images: Clint Eastwood Returns to Acting

Clint Eastwood hasn’t appeared onscreen in four years, and the last time he acted under the direction of someone other than… well, himself was in 1993. The 82-year old Hollywood legend returns to the big screen in Trouble with the Curve from his protégé Robert Lorenz, who’s worked on-and-off as an assistant director and/or producer on Eastwood’s films (beginning with Bridges of Madison County).

Eastwood co-headlines Trouble with the Curve alongside three-peat Oscar-nominee Amy Adams. The supporting cast isn’t shabby either, including John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard (The Descendants), and semi-newcomer Joe Massingill.

Trouble with the Curve is a father-daughter relationship drama explored through the lens of an off-the-field sports drama. Newcomer Randy Brown’s script revolves around an Atlanta Braves scout (Eastwood) who on the verge of being put out to pasture, due to his diminishing eyesight and old-fashioned approach to recruiting players (obviously, he doesn’t subscribe to the Moneyball school of thought).

Eastwood’s character convinces his estranged daughter (Adams) to accompany and assist him on what could be his last assignment, to determine whether or not a promising power hitter (Massingill) has potential to make it in the big leagues. Timberlake plays a player-turned-scout who’s on good terms with Eastwood, but risks trouble when he starts getting too friendly with Adams.

Lorenz has the opportunity to demonstrate the directorial tricks he’s picked up on working with Eastwood over the years, while establishing himself as a reputable storyteller on Trouble with the Curve (his feature-length directorial debut). The two-time Oscar nominee certainly works as efficiently as his mentor, given the six-month turnaround between the film’s production start date and its release this fall.

Moreover, Trouble with the Curve could satisfy as a capstone to Eastwood’s acting legacy, much like Unforgiven did for his days working in the western genre; not to mention, Gran Torino served as a swansong to his career playing characters who’re rough around the edges (ex. Harry Callahan). If Eastwood turns in a performance deemed awards-worthy by his peers, well, that’s icing on the cake.

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