Look, we all know Dirty Harry is awesome. But he’s also only human. Which means that, as hard it might be to believe, even Dirty Harry can star in a shitty movie.

Like I said in my review of 1983’s Sudden Impact, “Dirty” Harry Callahan is a character that really shouldn’t have been brought into the ’80s. The three Dirty Harry films from the ’70s still hold up as classics of the genre, but Sudden Impact and Dead Pool just feel like lazy attempts to keep the franchise going. The Dead Pool is FAR worse than Sudden Impact, and it’s no surprise the series officially stopped here.

The plot concerns a group of high-profile San Franciscans who are playing a “dead pool” – they’ve all made a list of local high-profile celebrities who they believe will be dead in a year, and whoever gets the most right by the end of the year wins. One of them might not be willing to wait for natural causes, however, as the celebs on the list of horror director Peter Swan (Liam Neeson) start being picked off by a serial killer. And wouldn’t you know, Harry just happens to be one of the celebs that Swan chose.

It’s actually not a bad idea for a thriller, but there’s absolutely nothing exciting or intriguing about the execution. When the highlight sequence of your movie is a car chase between a real car and a remote-controlled model car, you know you have problems. Eastwood is clearly bored with the character at this point; it definitely shows in his performance. I have no doubt that he did this one as a favor to Warner Brothers – “yeah, you guys have been really good to me over the years…I’ll give you one more Dirty Harry movie.” If that’s the case, though, they should have put the effort into giving Harry a proper send-off – maybe make the movie about Harry having to work one last case before retiring, or go all out and have him fired from the force only to become the vigilante he has always seemed to be. Instead, it’s just another “Harry working a case” movie, and it’s the most boring case with the most boring villain he has ever had.

It’s somewhat notable that this is the most star-studded Dirty Harry film – besides Neeson, Patricia Clarkson and Jim Carrey also make appearances (not to mention, uhhh, Guns ‘N’ Roses, who make a small cameo – mostly because their song Welcome to the Jungle is featured on the film’s soundtrack). This is actually somewhat detrimental to the movie now, though. Granted, none of the three were the stars they would become when the movie was made, but when watching it today it feels kind of strange to see big stars besides Eastwood in a Dirty Harry movie. Plus, it doesn’t help that Neeson is pretty bad in the movie – he’s definitely an actor that improved over time.

I could go on with more and more complaints about the film. For instance, it’s the second Dirty Harry movie in a row to have an unrelated subplot about Harry constantly being attacked by mafia hit-men – why was it so hard for the writers of these movies to come up with a main story interesting enough to fill ALL the screen-time, without having to resort to this? Plus, although I normally like Lalo Schrifin’s music, his score here is pretty darn goofy and over-the-top, and makes it hard to take some of Harry’s more heroic moments seriously.

About the only thing I did like about this one was Harry’s new partner, played by Evan C. Kim, of Caveman and Kentucky Fried Movie fame (he played the Bruce Lee part in KFM’s excellent Enter the Dragon parody). Sure, giving Harry a kung-fu fighting partner does feel like another desperate attempt to liven the franchise up a little bit, but Kim just has such a likable charisma that it’s hard not to enjoy his character. IF the series had actually gone on past this, I would have liked to have seen more of the character. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy the series DIDN’T go on past this…I’m just saying.

Oh, and I guess it’s also sort of nice that (SPOILER) the movie ends with Harry apparently involved in a happy relationship with an age-appropriate female character. So at least the series sends him off on a fairly pleasant note. I guess that’s something.

Still, this movie is easily the franchise’s lowest moment. About the only nice thing I can say about it is that it wasn’t SUCH a travesty that it tarnishes the character in any way – the first few films are way too strong for that to happen. You’ll probably want to see it once just to be a Dirty Harry completist, but seriously, you’re not missing anything if you never get around to it.

The Dead Pool. Even the trailer sucks.
This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on April 24th, 2011.