Thursday 22 September 2016

Dirty Harry ... Harry harries baddies

WOULD San Francisco homicide detective "Dirty" Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) been put on a
pedestal in 2016 for using tough-guy and unorthodox methods to catch a serial killer?
   This 1971 film by director Don Siegel takes potshots at the civil rights of criminals, especially Miranda rights. The Miranda warning is a right-to-silence warning given by cops in the US to criminal suspects in police custody before they are interrogated. This is to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings (Wikipedia).

   This rights stems from Miranda v Arizona (1966), in which the Supreme Court held that the admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
   Thus, if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to suspects in custody, they may interrogate these people and act upon the information gained, but may not use the suspects' statements as evidence against them in a criminal trial.
   Harry apprehends the blonde serial killer (Andrew Robinson) who's terrorising the city, and he uses information beaten out of the latter to find the body of a teenage girl in a hole. The sniper had
Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) aims to take out society's
demanded money from the city for information on the whereabouts of the girl whom he claimed was alive.
   But the killer gets off scot-free because Harry didn't inform the killer of his Miranda rights.
  Harry is furious at this technicality, and the killer also uses this newfound freedom to plan his next attack.
  Dirty Harry is about society's reaction to courts giving criminal suspects too much leeway and tying the hands of the police. Harry is often reprimanded by his superiors for thinking outside the box in catching criminals, but the film insists that his methods are effective and necessary to stop criminals.
   The film portrays his bosses as sticklers for rules whereas Harry's the one who puts his body on the line and does the dirty job to keep the city safe, including preventing people from committing suicide.
   The film makes no bones about showing Harry as a hard-nosed cop who mocks ethnic groups. He doesn't look comfortable paired with a Mexican-American graduate detective as he's used to working alone and may not be used to dealing with an ethnic cop.
   I found the film engrossing because what Harry faced in 1971 still resonates in US society today. Could his unusual methods curry favour with a society that's repulsed by the discriminatory tactics  of cops against blacks?
  Yesterday, Sept 21, authorities in Charlotte, North Carolina, braced for a possible second night of
Dirty Harry and the serial killer.
rioting triggered by the police killing of a black man who refused commands to drop a handgun that officers said he was brandishing.
  The trouble in Charlotte unfolded as demonstrators in Tulsa, Oklahoma, demanded the arrest of a police officer seen on video fatally shooting an unarmed black man who had his hands in clear view at the time.
   Harry may still run amok looking for criminals in 2016, but he'd better look behind him now.

 3½ out of 5 stars


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