Magnum Force ★★★

One of my favorite movie taglines ever is for the first Dirty Harry movie, let me look it up so I get it right: "Dirty Harry and the homicidal maniac. Harry's the one with the badge." I like it for obvious reasons, it's just a great tagline, but I also like it because it makes the movie seem a little more complex than it actually is, a little more in line with my own political stances than it actually is. I love the idea that there is no moral chasm between Harry, who is monstrous but charismatic, "Dirty" but a hero, and the killers he chases, because it acts as a balm on my conscience for watching these goddamn nightmare movies in the first place. In Magnum Force, this idea is obliterated, because the bad guys have the same institutional authority Harry has, even more so, and the only thing that separates them is, yep, Harry's superior moral sense and conscientious attitude towards violence and extrajudicial force! This is admirable, I guess, but it feels like such a snotty and half-measured response to critics of the first movie, almost like we're supposed to congratulate Harry on not being as bad as his rogue archenemies. I get enough of this from cops in the real world, I shouldn't have to tolerate it from fictional hardboiled cops too!

Still, this moves, and Eastwood is in peak 70s style here, sideburns and pompadour contributing almost as much as his .44 Magnum to his razor-sharp silhouette. And Hal Holbrook very nearly steals the whole show away right from under him.

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