SUDDEN IMPACT has the dubious distinction of being the movie that introduced the catch-phrase “Go ahead, make my day.” I’m not a fan of this fourth ‘Dirty Harry’ outing, but if I was going to select a Clintism from it I’d go with that which Callahan hisses at his superiors when they question his verbal abuse of a Mafia Don at his daughter’s wedding, a tongue-lashing so severe it gave the venerated old cutthroat a heart attack: “How’d I know he was gonna vapor-lock?”
They-asked-for-it justice gets dispensed every which way in this absurdity, the first in the series directed by the star. The body count escalates to such a point that every time Clint/Harry turns a corner or opens a door some bottom-feeder is begging for a slug. Those he doesn’t Magnum or pummel, co-star Sondra Locke (a mistake) takes care of, as a rape victim exacting revenge.
After blasting a goodly percentage of the population of San Francisco, Callahan is booted from the force. He ends up in Santa Cruz, coastal town in need of reckoning, plagued as it is by a series of “.38 caliber vasectomies”. Harry steps on toes (and faces), falls for Locke, and gets in so many hopelessly phony situations the audience ends up chalking it off as a joke. Audrie J. Neenan ,as a disgustingly vile butch, won’t win any LGBT awards, the plot is contrived enough to give Harry a pet bulldog and a couple of well-meaning assistants (will they end up dead?). So chock-full of violence that it tarnishes the memory of the first exciting installments, and ought to have prevented the lamentable fifth, The Dead Pool. As it was, it became the biggest hit of the series, the 7th highest grosser of 1983 and gunned up $67,000,000 just in the States. It was more than a boon for Eastwood, since his contract (he produced as well) gave him 60% of the profits: he took a stunning $30,000,000 back to Carmel with him. Too-dark cinematography is from Bruce Surtees; co-stars are Pat Hingle, Paul Drake, Bradford Dillman.