Friday, February 25, 2011

Dirty Harry

The failure of my Archos pretty much put on hold my program of watching movies that I felt I should see, because everyone assumed I would have, or because they'd become part of popular culture. That's all right, I was just about ready for a break anyway. I'll probably go back to it soon. However, even during the break, I did squeeze one movie in, Dirty Harry, just because it happened to get recorded on the DVR instead of downloaded, and Siobhan also wanted to watch it for the same reason.

This is a movie that's hard to gauge because it's hard to put myself into the time when it came out. How much of what seemed kind of obvious or predictable is only so because this movie helped shape our expectations of cop movies, helped define the genre? I don't really know. It seems like a lot of those things must be from even earlier, but I can't really say for sure, because I'm not that familiar with the cop genre.

I can say that I didn't find it that engaging. A lot of it felt scattered, particularly at the beginning, where it seemed like the story kept veering off into unrelated things that didn't end up adding much. Even later, the twists in the Scorpio case started to feel stacked on and disjointed. I can't easily put my finger on why; when I describe it to myself it sounds like lots of other good movies where the exigencies of the situation cause a series of twists and turns, with the two sides each having to deal with what the other one did. Consider the entire final reel of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, in which the ark changes hands over and over and over. If you stop to think about it, it starts to feel piled on, but the movie absolutely works. Doesn't a lot of the cat-and-mouse of Harry and Scorpio in the final reel have a similar, though not as extreme, tone? And yet it doesn't feel like anything more than too much, for no good reason, to me.

Admittedly, Harry pulls off the badass cop pretty well with his signature line. I've seen that line quoted (and misquoted) many times, but I had no idea that the scene I always see quoted is only one of two times the line comes up in the movie. It turns out a lot more powerful in the movie, where the first time is just setting up the second, than in the quote-out-of-context scene I always see (which is the first one). I suppose the reason I watched this turns out to be the opportunity to realize that. Now I better understand, and can better recognize, allusions and references.

But I can't really say that I enjoyed the movie. It was hard at times to keep focused on it. I wonder if I would have felt differently if I'd seen it at the time it came out.

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