One of the more graphically violent movies ever made, MAGNUM FORCE is shatteringly effective. Eastwood is a policeman man of few, often foul, words, who is baffled by a series of killings of prominent Bay Area criminals. His pal, Ryan, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and his new
partner, Perry, notes that all of the deaths were caused by the same weapon, a .357 Magnum. This is the gun that's widely used by members of the S.F.P.D. and the implication is that a cop is doing the erasing. Eastwood wonders if his friend might be the person responsible until Ryan is killed in
the same manner as the other victims. Eastwood wants to personally investigate the deaths, but his boss, Holbrook, calls him off the case. At a training center, there's a shooting match, and Eastwood allows Soul to win. He'd seen Soul and three others, Urich, Niven, and Matheson, practicing at the
range in an earlier scene and he has become suspicious of them. After the match, Eastwood wants to try Soul's revolver and fires one round into a piece of wood. He collects the slug later and learns that it matches the bullet taken from Ryan's corpse. Eastwood returns home where Soul and his
brothers await him in the shadows. They reveal that they are ridding the city of "garbage." Soon afterward, Perry is killed by a bomb in his mailbox and another is planted in Eastwood's, but he disarms it. Later, Holbrook asks Eastwood to take a ride with him and, once underway, Holbrook pulls a
gun on Eastwood, telling him that he is also part of the effort to keep the city clean. (Note: The story is based on the fact that a group of Brazilian cops were doing exactly the same thing until they were discovered.) Eastwood slams on the brakes, and Holbrook's head is smashed on the dashboard.
He pushes the boss out of the car, and discovers that he's been trailed by the training center foursome on their cycles. A chase ensues to what must have been the same deserted ship that James Caan was on when he battled Arthur Hill in THE KILLER ELITE. Then, one by one, Eastwood kills the bad
cops, finally dispatching Soul, who flies off the dock on his motorcycle in a remarkable stunt.
MAGNUM FORCE maintains the same dynamism as DIRTY HARRY, which was directed by Don Siegel. This picture was handled by Ted Post, who also did Eastwood's HANG 'EM HIGH. It's slightly more stylized than DIRTY HARRY in cinematic technique, but the Milius/Cimino script has abated some of the excesses
in violence. Eastwood takes a bit of time out for a brief love affair with a Japanese girl, Yoshioka, and he manages to resist Ryan's widow, White. When Eastwood is on a case, few women can divert him from his prey for any length of time. Part of his mythic charm mirrors depictions of an Old West
in which heroes only kissed their horses and oiled their Colts. The four vigilantes are uniformly good. Matheson went on to play in ANIMAL HOUSE, Urich would have two television series, and Soul became Starsky of "Starsky and Hutch" fame. MAGNUM FORCE grossed more that $20 million and spawned
several more Harry tales by less talented people. The theme of the picture is summed up in Eastwood's line, "Shooting is all right, as long as the right people get shot." The second unit direction by Buddy Van Horn is superior, and Carey Loftin's action staging is a great contribution. The main
problem is that there is so much gore that, by the time Eastwood gets around to killing the other cops, we have been desensitized to all of it and just wish for a tender moment. MAGNUM FORCE did better than DIRTY HARRY and paved the way for THE ENFORCER, the third in the series. It's too bad that
Eastwood has to make these movies to make money in order for him to do the movies he really wants to do, such as BRONCO BILLY, which keeled over at the box office.
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