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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Enforcer / Sudden Impact (Action Double Feature)



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#1 of 1 Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
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Posted June 21 2010 - 11:45 AM

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Action Double Feature: The Enforcer/Sudden Impact

The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983)


Studio: Warner Bros.

Year: 1976, 1983

Rating: R

Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castellano), Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish

Release Date: June 1, 2010

As part of their release of a slew of Clilnt Eastwood films on Blu-ray at the beginning of June, Warner Brothers also bundled some previously released titles in the "Dirty Harry" series into "Action Double Feature" 2-disc releases. These titles were both previously released in mid-2008 as part of the Dirty Harry Ultimate Collectors Edition. All five films in the series were re-compiled in less extravagant packaging for a Blu-ray release called The Dirty Harry Collection earlier in 2010. The two 25 GB Blu-ray discs in this collection are bit-identical to those in the prior releases, so fans who own them can comfortably stand pat without missing out on anything.

The Films


The Enforcer (1976 - Warner Bros. - 97 minutes)****

Directed by: James Fargo

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Crawford, DeVeren Bookwalter, Albert Popwell

The Enforcer finds Detective Harry Callahan (Eastwood) reluctantly teamed with newly minted female detective Kate Moore (Daly) after yet another one of his partners is killed in the line of duty. His distaste for putting inexperienced detectives in harm's way for the sake of political correctness is voiced, but not so intensely felt that it prevents him from doggedly pursuing the domestic terrorist organization responsible for his partner's death. Harry's superiors seek to appease the public by quickly arresting a militant black leader named Mustapha(Popwell) who Callahan was using as an informant, and angrily pull him off the streets when he expresses disgust and refuses to participate in a "Mission Accomplished" press conference with the Mayor (Crawford). Despite Callahan's apparent distaste for working with her, Kate backs his play when he continues his investigation, the stakes of which are raised considerably when the unhinged leader of the terrorist group (Bookwalter) takes the mayor hostage.


Sudden Impact (1983 - Warner - 117 Minutes)****

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Paul Drake, Audrie Neenan, Jack Thibeau, Michael Currie, Albert Popwell

In Sudden Impact, San Francisco Police Detective Harry Callahan (Eastwood) is once again at odds with his superiors over his methods as he accumulates a massive body count while foiling a robbery and defending himself from revenge minded perps recently freed after being arrested by him. When an investigation of a shooting death creates the need to send an officer to the small town of San Paolo up the coast, his Captain jumps at the chance to get Callahan out of town. Callahan's evidence gathering escalates into something more when a murder in the small coastal town seems to fit the MO of the murder in San Francisco. Harry finds himself on the trail of Jennifer Spencer (Locke) who is systematically killing all of the participants in a gang rape that victimized her and left her younger sister so traumatized that she has been institutionalized for most of the subsequent decade.


While the original Dirty Harry film stands head and shoulders above all of its successors, this "Action Double Feature" release conveniently packages together what I believe to be the two best sequels. That being said, they go about their business in completely different ways. Both films hew to the skeleton of the formula with an introductory encounter between Harry and some unfortunate criminals in the process of a robbery, the requisite friction with his superiors, and Harry's subsequent pursuit of a perpetrator who is established in the film's first act.

The Enforcer is by far the most efficient and tightly constructed film in the series, and its relatively breakneck pacing helps to smooth over some of the logical stretches built into the plot such as the Police Captain and Mayor's insistence in declaring that a killer has been caught when there is plenty of reason to believe that they have the wrong man in custody. The film is very well cast starting with the inspired non-obvious choice of Tyne Daly to play Detective Kate Moore. Much of the rest of the supporting cast is filled by familar faces from other Eastwood films such as Harry Guardino and Albert Popwell. While DeVeren Bookwalter errs on the side of overacting in the "crazy punk" role perfected by Andrew Robinson in the first film, he is at least given an interestingly pre-Die Hard/Hans Gruber character twist in that he seems to be as much or more interested in making money as in the nominal cause of his domestic terrorist organization.

Sudden Impact, by way of contrast is in many ways the most sprawling and disjointed of the Dirty Harry films. As a director, Eastwood seems in no hurry to advance the plot as he becomes interested in various subplots and characters that are largely gratuitous. Actor Albert Popwell, who appeared as a different character in each of the three previous Dirty Harry films finally gets to play a character on the right side of the law in this film, but his character could have easily been eliminated entirely without much detriment to the film. As a director, Eastwood has always had a taste for leaving in little "grace note" character bits at the expense of storytelling efficiency. Some viewers may feel Eastwood crosses the line when Harry is saddled with a vulgar dog for a sidekick, but audiences responded positively to the comic aspects of Eastwood's laconic tough guy persona interacting with animals in films like The Outlaw Josey Wales and Every Which Way But Loose, so I suppose they figured it was a safe bet. While Eastwood would eventually develop a much lighter touch as a director, the moments of pure excess in Sudden Impact, are strangely charming in their awkwardness. These include a gratuitous scene of the psychologically tortured character played by Locke shooting her own reflection in a mirror and a unwieldy repetition of the film's famous "...make my day" line during the film's climax.

Despite the inefficient narrative, the film proves to be engaging in that it touches on the morally grey aspects of Harry's pragmatic approach to busting bad guys in ways that are more successful and interesting than the first sequel, Magnum Force. The novel idea of interlacing the Dirty Harry "formula" with a rape revenge plot straight out of 1970s exploitation cinema manages to find a way to surprise the audience while delivering on their expectations at the same time. The end result is a film that is equal parts ambitious, awkward, unwieldy, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

The Video ****

Both films receive VC-1 encoded 1080p high definition presentations letterboxed to their original Panavision ratios of 2.4:1. Both presentations are free of digital video artifacts and look very film-like with natural looking grain. The Enforcer has moments of inconsistent sharpness that appear to be built into the film element used for transfer, but they are infrequent and mild enough that a viewer will likely only notice them with very critical viewing. Sudden Impact also reflects its source element in combination with Bruce Surtees very dark lighting set-ups. Eighties film stocks often exhibited higher contrast than modern stocks with detail falling off very quickly in dark areas of the screen. This results in things going a bit soft in "day for night" sequences and downright murky in "night for night" sequences. That being said, Eastwood and Surtees knew how to exploit the limitations and characteristics of the film used, and the folks responsible for the video transfer and encoding follow their intentions closely to achieve the appropriate visual representatioin of the film's psychologically dark themes.

The Audio ***½

The English soundtracks for both films are presented via a 5.1 remix with the default track being a 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding and a user selectable Dolby TrueHD lossless 5.1 track available as well. The remixes focus things primarily in the front hemisphere of the surround field with only light ambient effects and rare discrete effects in the surrounds. As is usually the case, the prime beneficiaries of the lossless encoding are the film's scores from Jerry Fielding and Lalo Schifrin. Schifrin's score for Sudden Impact is frequently maligned as being too dated due to its reliance on 80s-style synthesizers and electronic percussion, but those elements are really only laid on thick during the opening title sequence and a few sporadic instances through the rest of the film. Alternate Dolby Digital 1.0 language dub tracks are available in French, German, Italian, Spanish (Casellano) and Spanish (Latin) for both films. Sudden Impact includes an additional Dolby Digital mono track in Portuguese.

The Extras ****

Each disc has its own set of extras as described below:


The Enforcer


Commentary by James Fargo is an informative if a bit dry feature length commentary from the film’s director. His comments are frequent and usually screen specific, taking advantage of an outstanding memory for even the most minute of production details. Fargo also offers up comments explaining how Clint Eastwood's comfort with him as a second unit director on previous films led to his being asked to direct the third installment in the Dirty Harry series.

The Business End: Violence in Cinema (16:9 SD VC-1 - 30:09) is a featurette in which a number of critics and filmmakers discuss the relationship between cinematic violence and real world violence. A wide spectrum of views are offered by the participants on the classic chicken-egg dilemma of whether on-screen violence is a reflection of or a catalyst for violence outside the theater. On-screen comments are provided by actor/director Clint Eastwood, Director Peter Hyams, Author Richard Rhodes, Actor Reni Santoni, Writer/Director John Milius, Author Neal King, Actress Tyne Daly, Writer/Director John Lee Hancock, Actor Andrew Robinson, Screenwriter teven E. de Souza, Writer/Producer Tom Fontana, Writer/Director Joe Carnahan, Former Warner Executive John Calley, Author Emanuel Levy, Actor Michael Madsen, Screenwriter/Director Shane Black, Screenwriter David Ayer, Actor Hal Holbrook, Director John Badham, Screenwriter Jay Cocks, and Writer/Director Paul Haggis,

Harry Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special in Films (VC-1 4:3 Standard Definition Video - 6:00) is a vintage promotional behind the scenes piece that mixes clips and on-set footage from The Enforcer with narrative that is half exposition and half hype for the upcoming film release.

Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery (16:9 Standard definition VC-1 video - 11:07 w/ "Play All")is a collection of theatrical trailers for all five of Eastwood's Dirty Harry films. They are viewable individually or via a "Play All" selection.


Sudden Impact


Commentary by Historian /Eastwood Biographer Richard Schickel runs the length of the film and mixes screen specific observations with broader critical discussions of the film. Schickel has a bad habit of lapsing into narration of on-screen action and the gaps in his commentary increase as the film moves towards its conclusion, but the track contains enough useful information and interesting critical takes on the film's strengths and weaknesses to be worth a listen for fans of Eastwood's work.

The Evolution of Clint Eastwood (VC-1 16:9 SD video - 25:43)is a career overview featurette that while too short to really convey the true magnitude of Eastwood's decades-spanning career as an actor and director, does cover enough of a cross sectioin of his work to give a sense of the variety within that large scope. Eastwood's 1980s output is entirely represented by Sudden Impact in this featurette, which makes it an appropriate addition to the disc. Interview participants include Eastwood, Madsen, Holbrook, Directors Allen & Albert Hughes, Daly, Fontana, Milius, Calley, Santoni, Haggis, Cinematographer Jack N Green, Director James Fargo, Editor Joel Cox, Author William Beard, de Souza, Carnahan, Schickel, Screenwriter Michael Butler, King, Black, Levy, Hyams, Hancock, and Ayer


Packaging

The discs are assembled in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with two hubs allowing the discs to be held on their own inner pane of the case.

Summary****

Warner packages two solid sequels from the Dirty Harry film series in one modestly priced Blu-ray release in the Action Double Feature: The Enforcer/Sudden Impact. While those who have purchased the previous complete box sets of the Dirty Harry films will find nothing new, frugal fans interested in only one or both of these titles can save themselves a few bucks and be treated to the same excellent audio, video, and extras presentation as was available on the more expensive set.

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Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA





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