A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sudden Impact is a 1983 Dirty Harry sequel. Criminals and their wrongdoing are depicted as vile, psychopathic, and sordid in the extreme, perhaps to justify Inspector Harry Callahan's eye-for-an-eye style of police work as well as the rights of victims to violently retaliate against those vile and sordid acts. A group responsible for a gang rape a decade back have all gone free, and as a victim goes on a revenge killing spree, Harry sides with the victim. Viewers will tend to go right along. Rape, point-blank gun executions, fistfights, car crashes, bombings, and bullet and knife wounds are all seen. A topless woman climbs in bed with a shirtless man. A woman invites Harry in to have sex. In the next shot, he leaves her bed in the middle of the night. Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," "ass," "queer," and "prick."
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What's the story?
"Go ahead, make my day" -- Inspector Callahan's (Clint Eastwood) famous alert to criminals he would be happy to shoot -- is uttered twice in SUDDEN IMPACT. Without any such warning, a gang rape victim (Sondra Locke) is gunning down her attackers right in the private parts, which starts making Harry's warning seem downright neighborly in comparison. As Harry investigates each individual murder, he starts making the connections that lead to the woman. Harry often bitterly complains that the justice system allows criminals too many constitutional protections, but he does tend to arrest criminals (if they survive his pursuit) and let judges and juries do the rest. The revenge-seeking vigilante knows no such restraint.
Is it any good?
What Sudden Impact does well is lay out a balance system that offers heinous crime on one side and satisfying retribution on the other. The audience can't help but root for the woman shooting rapists in cold blood. The movie whips viewers into a supportive frenzy as she eradicates the conscience-free scum who have evaded the justice system with the help of a corrupt police department. You go, girl!
But when the satisfaction subsides, our own consciences must ask: "Do we really want private citizens playing executioner? Is murdering a bad guy still murder? Does it deserve punishment? If not, what kind of society can we expect to live in?" As Clint Eastwood plays him, Harry is a man who sees the world in black and white. Do we want a little gray thrown in? Best for older teens who can handle the mature content and moral questions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie persuades viewers to root for a murderer seeking revenge for unpunished wrongs done to her and her sister years before. Do you think it's ever OK to take justice into your own hands?
Why do you think it feels good to see the bad guys get what they "deserve"? Does the movie think that the woman seeking vengeance should not be punished? Why, or why not?
How does this sequel compare to other Dirty Harry movies?
- In theaters: August 29, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: June 3, 2008
- Cast: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle
- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: for strong brutal violence including rape, sexual content and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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