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“Dirty Harry” (1971)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Don Siegel
Starring Cast: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino

Harry Callaghan has something to say, “…ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky, Well, do ya punk,” This is the famous line in one of Eastwood’s more memorable performances. It is a line that has been uttered by many over the years.

In this the first movie of the “Dirty Harry” franchise, we are shown the perilous and brutal side of San Francisco, which is Callaghan’s workplace. After halting a bank robbery and an attempted suicide, Callaghan is confronted by his major test: an unhinged sniper slaughtering innocent people and holding the city in the grip of fear. After an illegitimate search causes the evidence against the killer to disintegrate, Callaghan falls back on less conventional methods to nail his man.

After triumphs in westerns and war movies, this was the first major modern role for Eastwood. Although playing a detective, Callaghan is fundamentally a rebel solving his troubles with a Colt handgun. A tactless, antisocial man, Callaghan leaves little room for compassion. The character established Eastwood as a huge star and led him on the path to Hollywood folklore.

“Dirty Harry” is a moral platform or even a moderate criticism. In Dirty Harry’s world, the criminals are sheltered whilst the law-abiding folk are not. The function of lawyers and politicians is to try to hold back the one man who could save the city from the larger-than-life, crazed lunatic. The politicians and lawyers don’t prevail and, in the finale, Callaghan is seen abandoning his badge and walking away.