The Dead Pool

1988, Movie, R, 91 mins


Fifth entry in the "Dirty Harry" series, a definite step backwards from the fascinating and ultimately disturbing progression of Eastwood's character in SUDDEN IMPACT. Here, Eastwood becomes embroiled in a string of murders involving a game called the "Dead Pool," involving a list of celebrities likely to die soon, from which participants wager on who will die first. The game is being played on the set of a cheap horror film directed by infamous gore-monger Neeson, whose bloody films are taken seriously by colleges and film societies. Neeson is the instigator of the ghoulish game and, as the celebrities begin to die off, is also the most likely suspect in the murders. The famous Eastwood, of course, is himself on the list.

Although the weak screenplay by Sharon would have trouble filling out a TV series episode, the fascination of the film lies not in its thriller mechanics but in the character played by Eastwood. Because everyone in the audience knows exactly what to expect from Dirty Harry in every situation, Eastwood has streamlined his portrayal. All he has to do is hint at the familiar sneer to get a reaction. His supremely controlled performance is a wonder to watch--some have called it bored and lazy, but it is really an engrossing experiment in minimalism. Eastwood has replaced all the timeworn elements of the series with a sardonic sense of humor that pokes fun at the genre, his image, and his audience. The highlight of the film in this regard is a clever parody of the famous car chase in BULLITT, in which Eastwood and his partner are pursued through the streets of San Francisco by a 12-inch, radio-controlled toy Corvette loaded with dynamite. leave a comment

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