The Dead Pool (1988)
“Dirty Harry Just Learned A New Game”
Director: Buddy Van Horn
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson, Patricia Clarkson
Synopsis: Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target.
The Dead Pool, the fifth and, to date, final Dirty Harry adventure has Clint Eastwood reprising the role of Harry Callahan, to whom we were first introduced way back in 1971. Harry’s looking a little grizzled now, but he’s lost none of his irascibility. In fact, given that he spends most of the movie following the rules he was once renowned for breaking with impunity, it seems that Harry might even have mellowed just a little bit.
The Dead Pool opens with Harry’s testimony putting away crime lord Lou Janero (Anthony Charnota) and becoming something of a celebrity in the process, attracting the attention of feisty TV news reporter Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson). When rock star Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey) dies from a drug-induced heart attack, and a movie producer is gunned down in a restaurant robbery, Harry discovers that their names were on a dead pool, a game in which the players bet on whom amongst a list of celebrities will be the first to die. The game is run by Peter Swan (Liam Neeson), the director of the film both victims were working on, and he immediately becomes the main suspect – although Harry suspects the real killer is trying to make it look like Swan is the culprit.
The Dead Pool is easily the least Harry-ish of the Dirty Harry franchise. The gritty, realistic violence has given way to a comic-book style that racks up the body count for no other reason than that director Buddy Van Horn needs to pad out the running time. The Lou Ganero sub-plot is superfluous to the main storyline, and it’s no wonder he’s inside given the quality of his henchmen. Not one of them can shoot straight to save their life (which they obviously don’t, seeing as how most of them are trying to shoot Harry). The plot holds no real interest, and the villain of the piece makes a belated appearance only so that he can be gunned down by Harry. Still, it’s probably the only movie in which you’ll see Jim Carrey playing a strung-out rock star, Liam Neeson sporting a rat’s tail and wonky Aussie accent, and a car chase involving a full size car and a Dinky toy.
(Reviewed 2nd July 2012)