When people start talking about sequels, they say the first real sequel was The Godfather II (1974), not only a good sequel, but better than the first Godfather. But they’re wrong, the first real sequel is Magnum Force (1973), better than the first Dirty Harry. The original Dirty Harry gets credit for being the best of the series, but as good as it is, this is actually better and doesn’t really get credit for that. This is a film from a time when a sequel got made if it deserved to be made rather than if it was a sure fire financial hit. Even good scripts got rejected, but this one was too good to pass up. The first had Eastwood stick his finger up to cookie-cutter Hollywood and introduced a ‘grey area’ cop, but Magnum Force takes it a step further and introduces grey area villains. It challenges you on whether or not you should like them.
The thing is, the premise for Magnum Force is better than the one in Dirty Harry. The lone nut sniper is classic, but vigilante bike-cops is just downright cool, who thought of this? The opening incident sets the tone: After buying their way out of court and insulting one of the villains, a group of backhanding bureaucrats are turned into chaffed meat inside their own car on the side of the highway. A women-beating pimp gets the same treatment – pulled over, shot in the neck then shot another four times in the chest. I mean shit, are these the bad guys or people who need their own TV show? In between the killing the ‘baddies’ are shown to be pretty cool guys. Likeable and civilised. This makes for a much more interesting villain than the original lone nut.
But as cool as the bad guys are, Eastwood is cooler. And if I had to see anyone take these guys down, it would be him. Questions are asked of the rogue cop that Eastwood plays, just how does a guy with little regard to rules see vigilante killers on his own force? The answer comes when Eastwood puts a bullet in a wooden cop at the gun range, giving the signal that someone is gonna get some ‘dirty’ justice. And when Clint gets goin’, the Police Chief is accusing him of ‘starting full scale military operations’. “Everytime you pull out that gun my paperwork backs up three goddamned months!” This sequel is two parts excellent thriller, one part classic action. Was there a motorbike chase as thrilling as that before this movie? Eastwood kills the villains in individual style too. Ramming a bike head on at full speed? Casually karate chopping a man to death in the gullet? It could only be Clint.
An underrated movie and an even more overlooked sequel. One of the funny things about this is, by the end of this movie Eastwood has killed more than the bad guys!