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By Brad Laidman | January 3, 2001

Boy did Ronald Reagan love this movie! He should have, because after all, he was the nation’s cheerleader for the right-wing movement that made Harry fashionable again. It’s always been my contention that Communist Russia fell because of their growing fascination with American Pop Culture, but I can’t really argue with anyone who traces a straight line between this movie, Ron’s fascination with that “make my day” catch phrase, and the end of the red threat. You have to believe the country’s military budget went up at least forty percent the second Reagan saw Clint with that really big gun (as opposed to the regular big gun) Clint hauls out for special situations. Harry probably would have even made at least as good a Secretary of State as Alexander Haig, and you’d have to think he could have gotten Noriega out of that complex without having to resort to all those AC/DC records.
Do you ever wonder why Harry lives in San Francisco? I can barely understand why he is a cop, but why would this most Republican of all heroes defend the most liberal city in the nation? Harry would probably be a lot happier in Idaho, and chances are that all of his partners would stop dying. Although, you’d have to think that Harry would be miserable if he didn’t get to shoot someone every couple of days or so. So I guess if you’re an angry killer with no interest in breaking the law you join the force and go where the action is.
Director Clint tries his best here to have “Sudden Impact” pick back up where the first movie ended. Harry vs. the system. In “Magnum Force,” Harry wasn’t too keen on the idea of a police death squad, but “Sudden Impact” lets us know he isn’t entirely opposed to some scattered vigilante revenge killings. If you thought Scorpio was scary in the first episode of this series, wait until you get a load of Audrie Neenan’s Ray Parkins, the scariest female villain in movie history. She’s as ugly as she is foulmouthed and motivated by pure evil. When Ray and a bunch of her skeezy guy friends brutally rape Sondra Locke and her sister, she seems to be more into it than the guys. Harry punches her square in the face, and not even the ACLU seemed to mind.
Most of this movie takes place in Carmel, which means Clint didn’t feel like commuting the hour or so to San Francisco any longer than it took to rile a mafia boss into a heart attack and blow away a bunch of armed robber hoods over a cup of coffee. Ronald got it wrong though as Clint’s best one liner here isn’t the famous “make my day” — it’s his surly explanation that when he says we he means, “Smith, Wesson and me.”
Luckily, he meets Sondra about four minutes after getting to Carmel. It also doesn’t hurt that all of her victims are on a picture on the Carmel Police chief’s wall. Still, watching Sondra Locke lecture Harry Callahan about the ineffectiveness of the modern judicial system is pretty funny, as is the ugly dog Clint tries desperately to give away. It’s not quite as funny as that Orangutan in “Any Which Way You Can,” but we appreciate the effort. Decide for yourself whether Sondra shooting all her victims in the groin is gratuitous or poetic justice.
The final showdown lets you know once and for all that Harry is just another fancy shooting cowboy. Too bad, because he’d probably have been ten times happier in the old west, even if that meant he never got the opportunity to pop his foes off a roller coaster from long distance and eat a hot dog or two next to the carousel unicorn the poor guy got impaled on.
Let’s also hear it for Albert Popwell, who joyfully appeared in the first four Dirty Harry movies. First, he was the bank robber on the other end of Harry’s “do you feel lucky punk” speech. Then he became a killer pimp in “Magnum Force” and a Black revolutionary in “The Enforcer”. Here, he is actually Harry’s police buddy and even buys him the ugly dog. I like to think that he played the same character going through different phases in every movie and that eventually Harry decided he liked the guy and recruited him to the force. Of course, all of Harry’s police buddies die, which would explain why Popwell wasn’t in “The Dead Pool”.
Did I already mention Harry’s really big gun!?

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