Director: James Fargo
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daley, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, DeVeren Bookwalter, John Mitchum, Albert Popwell
Plot: As Dirty Harry (Eastwood) takes a young female rookie (Daley) under his wing against his better judgement, freedom fighters launch attacks at the city.
The Enforcer marks the moment that Dirty Harry became a clear franchise. Dirty Harry was an original wonder, giving Eastwood his most memorable role and providing a gritty cop movie that is still entertaining by today’s standards. Magnum Force was a sub-par but worthy sequel, even taking the debate of Dirty Harry and providing a counter-argument, something which is actually really interesting. However, the Enforcer is happy to be just another Dirty Harry movie. Now, there is nothing wrong with this and The Enforcer is a strong movie in its own right: it simply hasn’t got any other motive in mind than giving us one more time tearing up the San Francisco streets with our favourite racist, moody cop.
There is one original element in the pot and that is the discussion of female police officers. Eastwood’s Dirty Harry is demoted to Personnel for the majority of the film and it is there he is confronted with the Mayor trying to establish female Homicide detectives in the force. This is where The Enforcer gets quite interesting, mainly because as a 70s movie with Dirty Harry’s reputation, it could all wrong. This could easily have been a movie about male cops condemning women in the police force, because that is the sort of thing you could imagine a Dirty Harry writer talking about. However, Fargo takes a more adult, appropriate excuse. Dirty Harry isn’t against women in the police force per se; he is simply against the Mayor throwing untrained rookies onto the streets, because it will get him more votes for the upcoming election. Tyne Daley plays the eager yet young cop who pairs with Eastwood as the physical embodiment of the discussion. It is a strong part, something that could easily have come across as a bit Bond girl. A strong female character who does her best, but still needs the help of the male hero by the end of the movie. It is hard to expect much else from a film in the 70s after all. However, all of Daley’s flaws here come across as down to the fact she is new to field work, rather than her gender. The female angle is brought up and then quickly brushed to the side to focus on the meatier parts of the debate. As a result, we don’t get a movie clinging to sexual politics or trying to preach one side or the other: we get a good look at the debate from the inside, without judgement, just living with the consequences. And it also gives Daley a gritty role, probably the best female character in the Dirty Harry series.
The rest of the movie is a little ‘will this do?’ This isn’t to say it is necessarily bad, because we do get a lot of classic Dirty Harry moments. It opens with Harry Callahan stopping a heist at a liquor story in a way only he could. We also get a gripping chase across the rooftops of San Francisco that becomes the highlight of the movie, a pulse-pounding 70s action sequence. And then there is the finale, which sees the Mayor kidnapped and taken to Alcatraz by a terrorist cell. Eastwood and Daley go after them with unpredictable results. It ticks all the right boxes, from Eastwood’s trademark dry wit to fun shoot-outs. Fargo has good fun writing in a disposable rocket launcher that ends up in the bad guy’s hands. The problem is that the story seems to work around these good moments. A few strong action sequences were written down on paper and everything else moulded around them, servicing those moments, rather than thinking too hard about what it could be. Take the bad guys, for instance. They are the weakest Dirty Harry villains to date, nameless henchmen with a vaguely explained plot and little to break them apart from the rest of the series. Harry runs rings around them. The Enforcer ends up as a very routine action, although when the action is this good, that doesn’t have to be a massive criticism.
Final Verdict: Daley adds some fresh narrative to the Enforcer, but it is clear this is a sequel in every sense of the word. Still solid fun though.