The Enforcer (1976)

When it’s on: Wednesday, 20 June (10.35 pm)
Channel: ITV1
IMDb Link

The third instalment in the saga of Harry Callahan finds our man at his lowest ebb – dropped from Homicide following his ‘dirty’ methods at foiling a liquor store hold-up, and sidelined into Personnel. Whilst there, he takes part in a series of interviews for promotion within the San Francisco Police Force, learning to his horror that women are being actively considered for Inspector’s badges in order to tick some ‘equal rights’ box. One such female is Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), feisty and spirited yet lacking in experience. Callahan knows she won’t last a minute on the mean streets and makes his point to the interview panel with typical tact and subtlety. When his Homicide partner is killed by a terrorist group made up of angry Vietnam veterans, Harry goes after them, bent on bringing his own brand of justice to bear, only to find – shock, horror – that his new buddy is none other than Ms Moore…

After the not too shabby Magnum Force, The Enforcer is a real step down in terms of quality. The nuances of a plot involving police officers turning into vigilantes – and dispensing the violent ends to bad people that Harry should approve of – are nowhere to be seen. Instead, it’s by the numbers fare, made with the bottom line in mind and seeking naught but to entertain. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the constant feeling of deja vu one gets when watching The Enforcer, the sense of having seen it all before, and done better, can’t be avoided, and that is a worry. The film goes for easy laughs, pairing the misogynist’s misogynist with a young female Inspector for nothing more than the craic, for the humour value of Clint’s punchline ‘Marvellous,’ which is whispered through gritted teeth. And when Kate turns out to be more than a heel, saving Harry’s life, it isn’t even a bit surprising.

If the film has a saving grace, it’s in the performance of Tyne Daly, who provides a welcome, fresh counterpoint to Eastwood’s weary copper. Viewers used to seeing her in endless Cagney and Lacey re-runs may be surprised by her winning turn, not to mention the fact she was clearly a bit of a cutie.

Otherwise, it’s like a cardboard cut-out of a Dirty Harry flick. James Fargo was in for his first directorial assignment, no doubt under heavy supervision from Eastwood, and he turns in a rather flat piece of work that goes ever for the obvious shots, dead even pacing and a curious absence of suspense. Where the story’s going is never in much doubt. There are no real surprises to be found, just the same actor going through the usual motions, looking a bit tired and potentially wondering why he’s been wheeled out for it at all. It’s the classic second sequel; all the things that made it great in the first place have been distilled to their base elements, with little of the style or wit that underpinned those earlier instalments.

The Enforcer: **

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2 Replies to “The Enforcer (1976)”

  1. I think you’re right here,this is pretty much a cookie-counter sequel and it doesn’t help that Lalo Schifrin isn’t on hand to score the film (Jerry Fielding was a fine composer but his contribution is pretty negligible). The Callaghan sequels seem to follow an interesting alternating approach in the way that they either reflect on Callaghan or go for a simpler, less satisfying approach. As you say, the first reflects back on the vigilante theme but transfers it to to other policemen. This is then dropped for ENFORCER and then brought back for SUDDEN IMPACT which again takes a more complex approach as the hero ultimately becomes the accomplice of a homicidal maniac (albeit a sympathetic one) and then once again we get a more straighforward story with the fairly light and comedic (about the nicest thing I can say about it) DEAD POOL.

    1. Thanks Sergio. I really liked Magnum Force, with its ethical dilemma for Callahan and I thought the series would stick to these strengths. Sadly not. I guess watched in isolation, The Enforcer is pretty good fun and possibly a bit of a blast, but as part of the canon it’s just… meh.

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