review for Dirty Harry on AllMovie

Dirty Harry (1971)
by Matthew Doberman review

"I know what you're thinking, punk...." So begins the most memorable speech from one of cinema's most memorable police officers, "Dirty" Harry Callahan, a role inextricably linked with Clint Eastwood. For fans of hard-boiled detective thrillers, this film has it all. It has so much, in fact, that it would be easy to write it off as gritty-cop-movie cliché, were it not for the fact that Dirty Harry practically invented the genre. If you've seen it before, it probably started here. Dirty Harry is definitely not a politically correct film, and some have decried it as right-wing propaganda. To be sure, criminals' rights are not something that Callahan has much use for, and whiny lawyers are the enemy of honest cops in Harry's world. Dirty Harry is a great example of how an actor can make a role his own; the part was originally offered to Frank Sinatra, then passed through the hands of John Wayne and Paul Newman, before Eastwood got hold of it. This was the fourth time that Eastwood had worked with director Don Siegel, and the pairing clearly works well, augmented here by a snazzy score by Lalo Schifrin. While the violence might be a little strong for some viewers, and others might have trouble rooting for an end-justifies-the-means kind of cop, Dirty Harry is one of the best cop movies, and one of the best movie cops, of all time.