8 September 2005 | Quinoa1984
lacking in some ways and stronger in others, it's a good- if mixed- Eastwood bag
It's a strange thing to see a film where some scenes work rather weakly (if only in comparison to other films in its legacy), and others in a 'sub-plot' or supporting story are surprisingly provocative and strong. Sudden Impact is one of those cases, where Clint Eastwood as star/producer/director shows when he can be at his best, or at his lessor of times when dealing with a crime/mystery/detective story in his Dirty Harry fame. We get that 'make my day' line, and un-like in the first film where his 'do I feel lucky' speech was playful and cool the first time and the second time at the end tough as nails, here it's switched around. He gets into another shamble with the department, as usual, when he tries to fight crime 'his' way, in particular with a diner robbery (inspiration for Pulp Fiction?) and with a high speed pursuit with a senior citizen bus. He's told to 'take a vacation', and that's the last thing on his mind. This whole main plot isn't very convincing aside from the expectancy of the story and lines, which just adds to the frustration. But soon his story merges with the sub-plot that Eastwood develops from the start.
Enter Sandra Locke's character, Jennifer Spencer, whom we soon learn after some (appropriately) mysterious scenes that she and her shy sister were victims of a cruel, unjust sexual assault (err, outright rape), and is sleekly, undercover-like, getting revenge. Her scenes and story are the strongest parts of the film, the most intense, and finally when it goes into Callahan's storyline (he's getting facts in the same small town she's in on a murder), the film finally finds a focus between Eastwood's classic form of clearly defined good vs. evil (though sometimes blurred, to be sure). Eastwood films the flashbacks, not to say too much about them, expertly, in a fresh, experimental style; the trademark Lalo Schifrin score is totally atmospheric in these scenes and in others. It almost seems like a couple of times an art-house sensibility has crept into Eastwood's firmly straightforward storytelling style, which helps make the film watchable.
It's a shame, though, that in the end it goes more for the expectable (or maybe not expectable) points, and until the third act Callahan doesn't have much to do except his usual 'it's smith...Wesson...and me' shtick. However, with Locke he gets out of her a very good performance (more subtle and touching than the one in the Gauntlet) and an exciting climax at an amusement park. In a way I do and don't agree with Ebert's remark that it's like a 'music video' in Eastwood's style here. I admit there is comparisons with the simplicity of both, the directness, but the scenes where Eastwood does break form are superior to those of any music video. It's cheesy, it's hard-edged, it's not up to par with the first two 'Harry' pictures, but hey, there could be worse ways to spend a couple hours with the master of the .44.