Magnum Force

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Magnum Force Movie Poster Image
'70s cop sequel has lots of violence, sex, profanity.
  • R
  • 1973
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

"A man's got to know his limitations." It's OK to break some rules but not others. Cops should act on their own when they're great cops but not when they're being vigilantes. "There's nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harry doesn't play by police department rules, but he usually hunts down bad guys, arrests them, and allows them to be prosecuted through the justice system. Rogue cops flout the law, stalking and executing bad guys. Corrupt cops go after other cops. A cop uses racist language. Harry says if every police officer were a good shot he wouldn't care if they were gay.

Violence

A murderer who gets off on a technicality is shot point-blank by a man in a police uniform. Other criminals are also executed. All the people with them, innocent or not, are also killed, leaving no witnesses. Reckless driving through San Francisco is seen. A pimp murders his prostitute in a taxi by pouring drain cleaner forcibly down her throat. Harry takes seven stitches in his forehead with no anesthetic. Two cops are blown up by bombs.

Sex

Three people are seen naked on a bed. Breasts and bottoms are shown. No sex acts are seen. Two women come on to Harry. One waits in his apartment and, in the dark, comes into his bed naked. They are interrupted before anything happens. A pimp takes money from his prostitute. A woman asks Harry what she needs to do to go to bed with him; he tells her to knock on his door. A woman talks about getting "laid."

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bitch," "t--ties," "snatch," "ass," the "N" word, "coon," "queer,"  "piss," "get laid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult drinks beer. A couple has cocaine.

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.

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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?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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