Paul D’s review published on Letterboxd:
Harry has had a little bit of a break, but now he's back, as snarling and grizzled as ever. But his time away has not been wasted, he's been working up a new catchphrase: "Go ahead, make my day". It's a good deal snappier than the old one, but what's odd is that although I seem to remember it being a big thing at the time the movie was released, he only uses it once.
But one thing has changed, this time around he doesn't have a partner. Actually that's not entirely true. First of all there's Horace (Albert Popwell), who will ultimately suffer the same fate as if he were Harry's partner, they're clearly good (shooting) buddies and on first name terms, but it would never do to have him working with harry because Popwell is as physically imposing as Eastwood, and that would never do.
And then of course there's the dog, the bloody dog, the snorting, pissing, farting, limping bulldog, Meathead, who fulfills the role of partner as well as any human in the film in that he saves Harry's life. But he's not really there for that purpose. I can only assume that he's there for some kind of comic relief, although he isn't funny unless you're the sort of person that is amused by the inhumane practices of dog breeders that have created these poor creatures.
Or perhaps it is a continuation of the series' progression with regard to Harry's partners, from African American to Hispanic to Female to Dog. Where next?
But this tells you nothing of the story which has Harry on the trail of a killer who has executed some guy by shooting him in the balls (and the head). With no leads he's sent out of his jurisdiction to the home of the victim, the town of San Paulo. Although it's not only about investigating the crime, it's to get Callahan out of San Francisco where he's been causing a bit of a stir by harassing a mob boss into a fatal heart attack which leads to an attempt at retribution, one which is, as you might imagine, pretty ineffectual. If his bosses really are worried about Harry's health, they shouldn't be as the would-be killers are entirely incompetent, three men, two armed with machine guns, don't even manage to put a scratch on him, while they all end up very dead.
More likely they're just fed up with him and need a break themselves, so they send him off up the coast where more killings occur as soon as he arrives.
I'm giving nothing away here by saying that the killer in question is Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke), out for revenge on the gang that raped her and her sister (now in a vegetative state) 10 years ago.
Once again there is nothing of the police procedural about this Dirty Harry movie, he just hangs around while the killer does their job until the movie reaches a conclusion of sorts. But to be fair to Harry there's not a lot to go on, despite Jennifer's protestations about an uncaring justice system, at the end of the movie to justify her actions, it seems as if the crime was never actually reported, otherwise our intrepid Inspector Callahan would surely have been able to connect a few dots.
Of course the film is all about a system of justice which is constantly failing society and so Harry, and in this case Jennifer, are obliged to take the law into their own hands, but there is nothing here to even suggest that the law even had a shot at making things right, although one might argue that the fact that one of the rapists was the son of the local Sheriff, may have resulted in a cover-up.
Like Harry, Jennifer may be breaking the law as it is written down, but she's enacting natural justice and as a result we all know that she won't face the consequences of her actions any more than Harry ever does.
The big question is, do we really need two characters who believe the same thing in the same story? And the answer is know. It turns out that the story was originally written for Locke and adapted into a Dirty Harry movie, which accounts for the film being overlong and the fact that in a story which clearly requires the main man to do just a small amount of detective work, he does no such thing, first of all because that isn't the way Harry works and secondly because the writer simply forgot to do the simplest of things to bring the lead character into the actual story.