I have discovered over the course of the 21 weeks since starting the “Dude, What?! Movie Review Podcast (geez, has it already been 21 weeks??) that there are times when our immediate review, while still accurate in my eyes, seems to lack a few more details or insights. And by “our” review, I mean “my” review. My co-host and longtime buddy, Jim Miller, doesn’t always agree with my assessments.
Sometimes, these classic movies that we watch and ultimately review need a closer look and more mulling over…
They need one final thought.
So, what makes a “classic movie,” anyway? For starters, it can’t suck. That should be a given.
(Take note, Friday the 13th!)
However, beyond the age old question of “Is this movie any good?” there are other factors that have to be considered to determine the level of Classic-ness a movie may or may not have. Quality of story concept, casting, was the story executed properly with regard to concept, and is this a movie you can see yourself watching again and enjoying 10, 15, 20 years from now? These are just a few of the criteria I employ when breaking down these movies. No, I am not a professional movie critic and I certainly don’t pretend to be one. But, I am a passionate about movies and I’m not so quick to throw around the “Classic” label to just any movie solely because it was release 30+ years ago.
One important piece of criteria (at least it’s important to me) used to determine whether or not a film is a “classic” film is the longevity of the films rewatchability. That is, does the film you see on the big screen have the ability to transcend the bitterness of time and the ever changing tastes of movie goers as the years roll on and on. It’s an important thing to consider when checking out a movie you’ve never seen before that may, in fact, have been released before your birth! Anyone who follows the show knows I’ve certainly encountered that instance once or twice.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s blog:
Released in 1971, Dirty Harry was just the tip of the iceberg for what would become a lucrative franchise for Clint Eastwood. “Dirty” Harry Callahan would go on to be one of the most iconic (there’s that word again, Jim!) on screen characters in the history of Hollywood, and for good reason. His no bullshit, anti-PC, play-by-my-own-rules attitude would rocket this character and the movie franchise into a stratosphere of success that would ultimately be the blueprint for any young filmmaker wanting to make a cop drama. There is no denying the power of the popularity of this character and this film, in particular. As of the time I’m writing this blog, Rotten Tomatoes has it rated at 95% and I can’t argue with its staying power, with regard to story concept and the characters within the film. However, in all the areas this movie excels, the glaring problematic issues that do exist are what keep this film from being a masterpiece.
Most notably, lighting. I know, I know, seems like such a ridiculous thing to harp on, especially considering the era this film was released, specifically referring to the lack of advancements within the film industry from a technological and electronics standpoint. High def film wasn’t even a thought in 1971 and the evolution of proper lighting wouldn’t become a hot issue with regard to film making for another near decade but even with all that knowledge, directors and cinematographers during this time of Hollywood had to have known their limitations. They had to have know, right? Apparently not, because the lighting in this film makes it unbearable to watch at times. I touched on this issue when we actually recorded the podcast so I won’t band that drum too much here, but the idea that this film is considered a “classic film” doesn’t ring true to me in all senses of the phrase. This isn’t a movie I could see myself sitting down and rewatching again because I have the burden of knowing that if I were to do so, there would be a large chunk of time during the movie experience that is, literally, in the dark.
For me, that a sad thing to say and have to stand by, because I really did love the film. Aside from other aspects that i would have changed (Check out Episode 017 – “CLINT!”) this movie is actually fantastic, but it is the prime example of storytelling that doesn’t achieve its full potential due to the era it was released and the lack of technological advancements in film. It is desperately crying out to Hollywood….
“REMAKE ME!!! REMAKE ME!!!”
I hear you, Dirty Harry! I hear your cries and I echo them loudly and proudly! You do, indeed, deserve to be remade so that the world can truly embrace the full spectacle of what your cinematography should have been! I see your potential and I support your need to be better!!
Which brings to my one final thought. As Jim and I discussed the review of Dirty Harry, I was asked if there were to be a remake of this film, who should play the lead? That was a tough question to answer on the spot and I believe Jim said (and I agreed) that Tom Hardy would be great in the role.
In hindsight, while I do love me some Hardy, I have to recant my original thought that he would be great as Dirty Harry. Tom is a wonderful actor and his interpretation of the role would be entertaining, but there would be something lacking, in my opinion. It’s the look. Dirty Harry has to have the right look and I just don’t think he has it. But, you know who does have the right look?
The longtime portrayer of Logan, aka Wolverine, has finally decided to hang up the adamantium claws and pursue other projects that don’t require him to scream in rage and chop people’s heads off.
<Taps playing background – “It’s a sad day indeed….”>
However, just because Hugh has called it quits on the action role that has made him a very wealthy and globally recognizable face, doesn’t mean he has to give up intense, dramatic roles. Roles like Dirty Harry! If you start at the top, right out the gate, he has the look. The right height, the right build, and the perfect face to sort of mirror the iconic (Damnit, Jim, that word again!) look that Clint Eastwood brought to the screen for Harry Callahan.
“Yeah, well….what about the acting chops, Brian?!”
I’m glad you asked. We all know Hugh Jackman has acting abilities in spades. Anyone questioning that should check out “The Prestige” or “Prisoners” and you’ll understand just how great Hugh Jackman really is.
“Ok, well….what about the intensity needed to deliver that famous line?? What about that Brian??”
Wow. You stumped me there…..just kidding. You want intensity? Just check out the alley scene between Logan and Victor Creed in Wolverin: X-Men Origins. Talk about an intense deliver of an impactful line, holy smokes!
“Do you even know how to kill me, Jimmy?”
“I’m gonna cut your goddamn head off……see how that works.”
Wow. Just…wow. Aside from the acting and the overall look, I feel that whoever attempts to embody the Dirty Harry character and retell that wonderfully dark story has to have the intangible onscreen presence that is needed to honor the previous performance by Clint Eastwood. Most people commonly refer to this as the “it-factor,” and no, we are not talking about Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Hugh Jackman, for my money, has that “it-factor” and would definitely breathe life into a story that (again, just my opinion) fell short of complete execution on screen due to the limitations of the time of its release. The only issue here would be the fact that Dirty Harry was the start of a major franchise where Clint Eastwood would reprise the role five times. Hugh Jackman just finished up his run as Wolverine in “Logan” which was his ninth time playing the Marvel hero. My thought is he wouldn’t accept such a role for fear of being locked into another situation where reprisal of such an iconic (DAMNIT!!) role would be expected and more than likely demanded. Oh, but a boy can dream…
Dirty Harry is, conceptually, an amazing film and pivotal to that style of dramatic storytelling for the time it was released, but falls well short of being a cinematic masterpiece dude to its logistical limitations and for that, it will remain a 3 on the Dude, What?! Ranking Scale. It gets the Back to the Future Part III treatment because it is good, but not good enough to watch again and it’s bad because of the cinematography but not bad enough to totally trash it.
I’m Brian Sumner from Dude, What?! and that’s my one final thought on Dirty Harry.