The Enforcer

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
The Enforcer Movie Poster Image
Dirty Harry sequel addresses sexism; lots of violence.
  • R
  • 1976
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Women should be given a chance to prove themselves at jobs traditionally reserved for men. "If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log."
 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harry refuses to accept a commendation he did not earn. He refuses to play along with his bosses when they make a mistake in the solution of a crime. Harry sarcastically praises the department for the effort to promote women to detective roles, calling the move "very stylish." Later, he comes to admire the woman assigned to be his partner for her dedication and bravery. Despite his difficult relationship with the police force, a leader of a nonviolent black power group helps Harry solve a crime. Bureaucrats try to pretend a police mistake is cause for congratulations. A new police inspector gains experience and self-confidence.

Violence

A truck driver is stabbed. A cop is shot and dies from the wound soon after. Harry drives unsafely. A group of thugs posing as environmental terrorists kill people, steal explosives, and kidnap the mayor for ransom. A gang leader kills one of his own wounded members so as not to be bogged down by the wounded person's care. A new homicide inspector gets queasy as she watches a doctor perform an autopsy. A villain dressed in a nun's habit is shot and killed. A dead man's head wound is bleeding.

Sex

During a chase, a criminal drops through a ceiling onto a bed occupied by naked actors, presumably making a pornographic film. Extremely brief nudity -- breasts, pubic hair, a penis -- is shown. Kate makes sexual references to phallic tall buildings. She also clarifies that Harry uses a .44 Magnum because the bullets have "penetration." Harry pretends to be a client at a "massage parlor," which offers him "32 different positions of lovemaking."

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bastard," "bitch," "numb nuts," "hell," "damn," "ass," "balls," "punk," "Jesus Christ," "pig," "the fuzz."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer and smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Enforcer is the third movie in the Dirty Harry series, featuring Clint Eastwood as the homicide cop who goes out and looks for trouble when it doesn't happen to find him. As in the other movies, there's plenty of shooting, bloody bullet wounds, knifings, explosions, and, this time around, bias against women who want to become homicide detectives. Extremely brief nudity -- breasts, pubic hair, a penis -- is seen when a criminal drops through the ceiling of what seems to be a pornographic film shoot. Kate makes sexual references to phallic tall buildings. She also clarifies that Harry uses a .44 Magnum because the bullets have "penetration." Harry pretends to be a client at a "massage parlor," which offers him "32 different positions of lovemaking." Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "bitch," "ass," and "numb nuts."

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What's the story?

In THE ENFORCER a Vietnam veteran, killer, and former pimp who seems mentally deranged leads an armed group to steal explosives. He then sets off bombs around town and kidnaps the mayor for a multimillion-dollar ransom. Harry (Clint Eastwood), who has been demoted for his usual insubordination, is called back to help find the group, now on a killing spree. Despite his vocal protests against promoting women without enough experience to become homicide inspectors, Harry is assigned a newly minted female inspector (Tyne Daly). He grudgingly comes to respect her, and they become a good team.  

Is it any good?

The cop who hates criminals and his bosses almost equally is a meme that is coming into its own by this third installment in the Dirty Harry series. Eastwood brings both humor and social criticism to his trigger-happy, super-competent cop. He shows prejudices -- in this instance, a fear that inexperienced women cops will jeopardize their own safety and the safety of other cops just so the department can claim it's unbiased. Law-and-order conservative that he seems to be, Harry makes a point of treating all bad guys the same and believing in the equality of the races at a time when many cops weren't quite so enlightened. Perhaps the most interesting moment in the movie comes when an African-American leader tells Harry that he is putting "his ass on the line for a bunch of dudes" -- that is, powerful white men -- who don't like Harry any better than they like black militants. Harry replies that he's not doing it for them. So who does he risk his life for everyday? His reply is tantalizing: "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." And nothing more is said about that through the rest of the movie. C'mon, Harry. Who do you do it for?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that although female cops are commonplace today, back in the 1970s women were still forced to prove to male bosses that they were as competent as men. Do you think the movie wants viewers to root for the striving female cop?

  • What do you think makes Harry come around regarding his new partner? Do you think the movie makes the case that she is as capable as Harry and other male cops?

  • How much progress have women made in the workplace since this movie was made?

Movie details

For kids who love action and adventure

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