- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2006

No, I haven’t seen “Superman Returns” yet, and I don’t like what I’ve heard so far.

But I did watch the “Dirty Harry” sequel “Magnum Force” for the thousandth time.

It certainly wasn’t as compelling overall as the original; I’d rank it third behind the improbably great “Sudden Impact” and ahead of the stinkers “The Enforcer” and “The Dead Pool.” But, at least in its basic plot, it was more sophisticated than its predecessor.

Where in “Dirty Harry,” Clint Eastwood’s flinty San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan chased down an almost ridiculously evil serial killer, in “Magnum Force” he battles a threat from within: a gang of rogue motorcycle cops who have taken the law into their own hands.

In this, I think, it was a rebuke of sorts to “Harry.” Despite the sinister inferences that Pauline Kael drew from the film — she took its vigilante villains for “homosexual Nazis” — “Magnum Force” looked into the same abyss of American urban lawlessness that “Harry” did and stood up, however reluctantly, for systematic justice.

Compare Callahan’s fuming dismissal of civil-liberty niceties in “Dirty Harry” (“…the law’s crazy”) to his weary yet firm appraisal at the end of “Magnum Force (“The system’s lousy, but it’s all we have”).

With that, you should go ahead and make your Independence Day.

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