A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the 1973 Magnum Force is the second in the Dirty Harry series, featuring Clint Eastwood as a laconic cop who hates bad guys and is handy with his very big handgun. Expect to see lots of shooting and bleeding gunshot wounds. A woman is murdered by drain cleaner. Several people are shot at point-blank range. A cop is knocked off his motorcycle in a deliberate head-on collision. Naked adults are seen in a threesome, although no genitals are seen. Two cops are killed by bombs. A topless woman is shot in the chest in a swimming pool. A man drinks beer. Others have cocaine. Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and the "N" word.
What's the story?
The steely-eyed Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) may cut some corners where police rules and regulations are concerned so long as he can bring down the bad guys. But he strongly objects to cops taking on the roles of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. When a cadre of rogue cops starts wiping out criminals who have evaded prosecution, Harry goes after the cops, not realizing how high up the conspiracy goes.
Is it any good?
Don't expect subtlety in this unambiguously tough-talking, violent, anti-criminal drama. MAGNUM FORCE is a good example of law-and-order movies that served as 1970s media antidotes to the villainous representation of cops who broke up peaceful civil rights demonstrations and shot war-protesting students in the 1960s. The veins in Eastwood's manly forehead stand out as if to emphasize the righteousness of the cause of good cops. Harry is meant to epitomize the no-nonsense law-and-order enforcer as an icon and upholder of social balance. Compared to the cops he discovers executing criminals without benefit of judge or jury, Harry seems downright moderate. Maybe he doesn't wait for the permission of his superiors before he makes a move, but at least he isn't out there killing people just because he doesn't like them.
Given the violence, sex, and profanity, this movie is best for older teens and adults only.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what kinds of frustrations could lead society to resort to vigilantism.
Since vigilantes are usually ordinary citizens, neither police nor military, the idea of the police being characterized as vigilantes rather than simply as rogue cops can be confusing. Does the movie distinguish between ordinary citizens who feel the police aren't doing their jobs and cops who believe the judicial system isn't doing its job to protect people?
Is this movie still relevant, or do you feel it's too dated to resonate with current audiences? If you could remake it, how would you do so?
- In theaters: August 29, 1973
- On DVD or streaming: June 3, 2008
- Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Felton Perry, David Soul
- Director: Ted Post
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for strong brutal violence including a sexual assault, sexuality/nudity, language and drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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