Published in the Chicago Reader in 1988. — J.R.
The deal went something like this: Clint Eastwood convinced Warners to let him make his ambitious movie Bird, about jazz giant Charlie Parker, by agreeing to grind out another Dirty Harry film in exchange. But because he was evidently less than enthused about the prospect of perpetuating the series, he chose to make this umpteenth episode pivot around the issue of the sickness of the media’s pandering uses of violence, as if to exonerate himself from his own doubts about the Dirty Harry cycle. It’s a sincere but ultimately pathetic instance of the pot calling the kettle black, with Eastwood trying to distance himself from the source of his appeal with his left hand while catering to it with his right. The results are an episodic thriller that certainly has its moments, but eventually peters out into dull formula standbys; Eastwood’s Harry seems weary of his own sarcastic witticisms, and the ones here won’t make anybody’s day. Patricia Clarkson, Evan Kim, Liam Neeson, and David Hunt costar; the script is by Steve Sharon. (JR)