Joe Knows

When I ripped open the boxed DVD set courtesy of my uncle for Christmas, I knew immediately that I had in my hands 439 minutes of unadulterated make-no-apologies, kick-ass enjoyment. Yep, I was holding the first four installments from Clint Eastwood’s signature “Dirty Harry” series.

For those of you kids who have never had the pleasure to look down the barrel of Harry Callahan’s .44 Magnum, Eastwood’s character was representative of an entire field of film in the late ’60s and early ’70s—cooler than ice.

Dubbed the “loose-cannon cop” genre, the films portrayed blunt, no-nonsense detectives who played by their own rules, often disregarding their incompetent superiors while stopping at nothing in their pursuit of the bad guys. And “Dirty Harry” is just one of the era’s many cynical, unorthodox antiheroes. Frank Bullitt in the eponymous “Bullitt” and “Popeye” Doyle in “The French Connection” also took no prisoners.

Set against the background of the turbulent late-’60s and early-’70s, the old school— embodied by common sense cops like Callahan and Bullitt— collided with the calculated and systematic new school. The results were seldom pretty, and, yes, a few liberties were taken by the cops (i.e. beating the cream cheese out of the bad guy).

Many critics considered the films to be in direct conflict with civil liberties and constitutional rights, but they apparently didn’t realize how thrilling the car chase scenes are in “The French Connection” and “Bullitt,” or how awesome Harry looks when he’s about to utter his iconic “Go ahead, make my day” line—which he says in the third sequel “Sudden Impact.”

No, in truth, the only thing a film like “Bullit” can be accused of is being an unapologetic guy movie.

And the films have obviously had a lasting impact, as countless action crime flicks have found their way to the screen. Hollywood tries to replicate the gritty feel of these movies, but instead just follows the same tired formula and churns out mindless, 100,000 mile-a-minute stuff like “The Bourne Identity.”

What they don’t realize is that movies like “Bullitt” had actual plot fueling its car chases.

However, it would be unfair to expect today’s actors to turn in a performance worthy of Steve McQueen because they just don’t make them like that anymore.

Nicknamed the “King of Cool,” this guy might as well have had a patent for badness. I mean, dude made Mark Wahlberg look like Al Gore.

No, movies such as these are likely extinct. So go on and call me a dinosaur, plebian or whatever other labels you feel would best describe my taste in film. It would make my day.

JOE CUNEO

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