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Warner Home Video presents
Magnum Force (Deluxe Edition) (1973)

"Nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot."
- Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood)

Review By: Matt Serafini   
Published: June 02, 2008

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan
Other Stars: Robert Urich, Felton Perry, David Soul
Director: Ted Post

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, nudity and language
Run Time: 02h:02m:24s
Release Date: June 03, 2008
UPC: 012569818378
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-B+A B+

DVD Review

By now the controversy surrounding the original Dirty Harry has been well documented. In the early '70s, as the peace and love generation was fading into oblivion, people were shocked and appalled by hero cop Harry Callahan and his uncompromising brand of justice. With this in mind, the 1973 sequel, Magnum Force, becomes a far more interesting and contradictory viewing experience. While certain fundamentals have been carried over from the first film, the political core is drastically different and occasionally synthetic. Magnum Force is a well-made film, but it’s easy to feel as though its filmmakers coped out in a half-baked apology to the first film’s harshest critics.

Our villain this time isn’t a mentally deranged sniper, but rather a group of motorcycle patrol cops who’ve transformed the streets of San Francisco into their own vigilante hunting ground. Before long, Detective Callahan is dragged into the case only to discover that it's far more complex than he thought.

Magnum Force isn’t nearly as lean as Dirty Harry. It takes far too much time for its main story to get underway (Harry doesn’t get directly involved until about the one hour mark), and several scenes add precious little to the proceedings. There’s a lengthy bit where Harry takes on airline hijackers for no particular reason other than to include an action sequence in the film’s first thirty minutes, not to mention an underdeveloped relationship with a female neighbor that never adds up to much of anything.

Thankfully, this is a slick production and if the aforementioned moments refuse to service the main story, they’re at least fun to watch even as they inflate the running time and rebuke the sense of urgency pertaining to our vigilante killers. Thankfully, once things get going, Magnum Force becomes an exciting and suspenseful production. The climactic action sequence is exciting and well choreographed and the moments where Dirty Harry starts to realize exactly what is going on are genuinely gripping. Eastwood delivers another assured turn as Detective Callahan, steel-eyed and as ironic as ever, while David Soul is a terrific, cold-blooded villain. His scenes opposite Eastwood are a genuine highlight.

Where Magnum Force stumbles, however, is in the John Milius-Michael Cimino screenplay. The story is a clever way to get a majority of audiences back into Harry’s corner without objection, but it feels manipulative in this sense. Furthermore, I’m not entirely convinced that Callahan would take as much issue with these killers as the script dictates. There’s a moment late in the film which helps pit Harry against them in a more personal fashion, but it’s not particularly well handled or emphasized. It’s true that our vigilantes are killing unarmed criminals, but they’re not too removed from Harry’s actions in the first film. I couldn't help but wonder what the outcome might have been had the film played with that parallel, but sadly it goes largely ignored.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I'm not sure how the image quality of this disc stacks against the previous 2001 release. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer offers solid image quality and resolution even if there are sporadic hints of the film's age through specks and occasional dirt. There's a softness to the entire picture which looks indicative of the way Magnum Force was shot. While I eagerly await the Blu-Ray release of the Dirty Harry collection, those sticking with standard DVD should had no major qualms with this title's image presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: While the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is obviously new for the DVD age, the track is surprisingly aggressive and all-encompassing. Many 5.1 tracks tend to feel synthetic, with the occasional sound effect added to the rear speakers, but that's not the case here. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the audio had always been mixed this way. The frequent gunfire is loud and complimented by the subwoofer. Lalo Schifrin's jazzy musical score also rocks the speakers and subwoofer. If you're going to watch this film, this is how you've got to see it.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dirty HarryThe EnforcerSudden ImpactThe Dead Pool
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer John Milius
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: John Milius' audio commentary is a good one. If you've ever heard Milius speak in any medium, his dialog probably won't be all that surprising. It's an enjoyable talk, where he covers the film's production, the decision to take the story in the direction it went and, true to Milius fashion, offers some personal political opinion which may or may not offend some sensibilities. Milius is never dull, however, and if you like the film, you'll want to take the commentary for a spin as well.

A Moral Right: The Politics of Dirty Harry (24m:11s) is a star-studded and intriguing discussion of the politics of the Eastwood character. Several of the film's participants (including Eastwood) are on hand, though the likes of Michael Madsen, Shane Black, and Joe Carnahan offer their two cents as well. While this isn't as much a retrospective on this particular film, Magnum Force does receive a lot of attention here, as it's a complete 180 from the first movie in terms of political undertones. A great feature, well worth watching.

The Hero Cop: Yesterday and Today (08m:02s) is an archival featurette from the time of Magnum Force's release. It illustrates the difference between screen cops of the '40s and '50s and Harry Callahan. Nothing too insightful 35 years later, but it's still a neat little feature and I'm glad Warner included it.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

When all is said and done, Magnum Force remains a rock-solid cop thriller. It's not nearly as successful as its predecessor, but such expectations are unrealistic. Some 35 years after its initial release, it's still an edgy actioner, the kind that simply isn't made anymore. Even with a safer political center, the movie entertains. It's a real tough guy's film through and through, and you simply can't go wrong with that.

 


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