The Dead Pool
|The Dead Pool|
Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Buddy Van Horn|
|Produced by||David Valdes|
|Screenplay by||Steve Sharon|
|Story by||Steve Sharon
|Based on||characters created by Harry Julian Fink
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Edited by||Ron Spang|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
The Dead Pool is a 1988 American action flim directed by Buddy Van Horn, written by Steve Sharon, and starring Clint Eastwood as Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. It is the fifth and final film in the Dirty Harry film series, set in San Francisco, California.
The story concerns the manipulation of a dead pool game by a serial killer, whose efforts are confronted by the hardened detective Callahan. It co-stars Liam Neeson, Patricia Clarkson and features Jim Carrey (in his first dramatic role), each of whom eventually went on to greater film fame. It is the only film in the series to not feature Albert Popwell, as the actor had played a different character in each of the previous four films.
At 91 minutes, it is the shortest of the five Dirty Harry films.
Fame finally catches up with Harry Callahan. His testimony against crime kingpin Lou Janero puts the mobster in prison and Callahan on the cover of San Francisco Magazine as the city's ace crime fighter. Callahan is attacked by Janero's men at a turnoff near the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge while driving. He knocks down one with his car and shoots the remaining men dead. Callahan discovers he has been assigned a partner: Asian American, martial arts-skilled partner Al Quan (Evan Kim). Unimpressed, he advises Quan to get a bulletproof vest, as his partners often get killed. They are assigned to investigate the death of rock singer Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey), killed in his trailer outside a meatpacking plant during filming of a music video for a slasher film directed by Peter Swan (Liam Neeson).
Later, Dean Madison, Swan's executive producer, is shot and killed during a Chinatown restaurant stickup. Harry and Quan see the holdup and rush to stop it. Harry manages to gun four of the robbers inside the restaurant; the one who manages to escape out the front door is subdued by Quan, an expert martial artist. Harry wryly compliments Quan's skill, accepting him as his partner in fact. When they examine the dead producer's belongings, they discover a list in his pocket with Harry's and Johnny Squares's names on it. It turns out that the dead producer and Swan are participants in a "dead pool" game, in which participants try to predict celebrity deaths, either by natural causes, old age, or as a result of working in dangerous professions. In a turn of events, another celebrity on Swan's list, movie critic Molly Fisher, is stabbed and killed in her condominium by an intruder claiming to be Swan.
Callahan is asked to cooperate with the media, particularly reporter (and later love interest) Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson), to balance their interference with the investigation. Walker proposes to do an in-depth profile on Callahan for her news report, to make up for an incident earlier in the film where Harry threw and ruined Walker's camera in an attempt to stop her crew from harassing Squares' hysterical girlfriend. However, Callahan wants to simply perform his job and stay out of the limelight. Days later, Callahan apologizes for his rude exit at their first dinner, and he and Samantha have a second dinner date. Afterwards, they narrowly escape being killed by Janero's men, leading the reporter to reconsider the plight of police officers versus the public's right to know.
Callahan drives to San Quentin, where Janero is serving his sentence. He promises a huge, chain-smoking quadruple murderer named Butcher Hicks a carton of cigarettes for his help in convincing Janero that if anything bad happens to Callahan, the vicious Butcher will pay him a visit. This results in Janero calling off his men, and assigning a couple as Callahan's personal bodyguards to keep any other hoods from killing him.
Callahan and Quan receive a call that a troubled man named Gus Wheeler, rumored to be responsible for the murders, is trying to get on the TV news by dousing himself in gasoline and threatening to immolate himself if he sees a fire truck or a hose. Ultimately, it turns out that Wheeler is just an attention-seeker desperate to appear on camera. He accidentally sets himself on fire, but Harry saves him, allowing officers extinguish the flames covering him. Samantha is praised by Harry for showing professionalism and not allowing the attention-seeker to have his suicide filmed.
Harry and Quan later interview Swan and get the name of another suspect: Harlan Rook, a schizophrenic and deranged fan of Swan who thinks his ideas and work have been stolen by the director. Swan had obtained a restraining order against Rook about a year before.
Rook next kills controversial talk show host Nolan Kennard, another person on the dead pool list, using an ingenious device: he drives a remote controled toy car filled with C4 explosive under the victim's vehicle as he is backing out of his driveway and detonates it. Rook's car bomb goes undetected by Callahan at the crime scene. Although he does find a wheel from the radio control car, he thinks nothing of it until he later spots a radio controlled car following him in the streets. Recognizing the threat, Callahan and Quan flee in their unmarked car through San Francisco's hilly streets, pursued by Rook's radio controlled car and Rook himself in a real car. Eventually Callahan and Al Quan are trapped in an alleyway and the bomb car advances on them. Harry slams the car into reverse seconds before the bomb explodes, with the engine taking the brunt of the blast and the firewall protecting the two cops. Quan is injured but survived with only broken ribs thanks to his bulletproof vest.
When Callahan visits Quan in the hospital and asks about the vest, Quan reveals a piece of advice he was given by his grandafther: "When your partner gives you advice ... you TAKE it." Callahan leaves with a smile.
Rook, disguised as Swan, calls Walker at the television station and invites her to Swan's film studio for an interview, which is actually a trap. Meanwhile, the police raid Rook's apartment and discover torn posters of Swan's films and large quantities of explosives. Callahan hurries to Swan's studio, where Walker is being held captive by Rook. He reluctantly surrenders his .44 Magnum revolver after Rook nearly slits her throat. Callahan lures him to a pier after a chase through a warehouse, with Rook shooting at him with his own gun. Rook eventually runs out of ammunition, and Callahan takes the opportunity to shoot Rook with a Svend Foyn harpoon cannon, impaling him. Callahan leaves with Walker as the police arrive at the scene.
- Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan
- Patricia Clarkson as Samantha Walker
- Liam Neeson as Peter Swan
- Evan C. Kim as Inspector Al Quan
- David Hunt as Harlan Rook
- Michael Currie as Captain Donnelly
- Michael Goodwin as Lt. Ackerman
- Jim Carrey as Johnny Squares
- Anthony Charnota as Lou Janero
- Ronnie Claire Edwards as Molly Fisher
- Louis Giambalvo as Gus Wheeler
- Charles Martinet as Police Station Reporter
Members of the hard rock band Guns N' Roses make uncredited cameo appearances at the funeral of Johnny Squares. They also appear during filming of a "nightmare scene" at the docks, where guitarist Slash fires a harpoon gun through a window and is berated by Swan.
Eastwood reacted to starring in another Dirty Harry film, "It's fun, once in a while, to have a character you can go back to. It's like revisiting an old friend you haven't seen for a long time. You figure "I'll go back and see how he feels about things now."" The Dead Pool was filmed between February and March 1988 in San Francisco.
Callahan is pursued through San Francisco's hilly streets in his unmarked Oldsmobile 98 squad car by a remote-controlled bomb assembled by Rook, disguised as a radio-controlled car. The "bomb" was in fact a highly modified Associated RC10 electric race buggy topped with an off-the-shelf 1963 Chevrolet Corvette body by Parma International. It was driven by the then defending off-road world champion radio control driver Jay Halsey. The sound effects of the "engine" were added in post production. This chase scene has many similarities with the famous chase in the Steve McQueen film Bullitt. Eastwood has said that the chase was his favorite part of the film.
The Dead Pool received mixed reviews. It holds a 52% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a thumbs up and said "As good as the original. Smart, quick and made with real wit." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune also gave it a thumbs up and said "Perhaps the best Dirty Harry film since the original."
Box office performance
The Dead Pool was released in United States theaters in July 1988. In its opening weekend, the film took $9,071,330 in 1,988 theaters in the US, at an average of $4,954. In total in the US, the film made $37,903,295, making it almost the least profitable of the five films in the Dirty Harry franchise.
Eastwood has publicly announced that he has no interest in acting in another Dirty Harry film. In 2000, he jokingly spoke about potential sequels: "Dirty Harry VI! Harry is retired. He's standing in a stream, fly-fishing. He gets tired of using the pole— and BA-BOOM! Or Harry is retired, and he catches bad guys with his walker?"
- Box Office Information for The Dead Pool. The Wrap. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Popwell. Retrieved May 21, 2025.
- "Flashback Five - The Best Dirty Harry Movies". American Movie Classics. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
- Munn, p. 218
- Hughes, p.76
- Hughes, p.77
- "The Dead Pool". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Dirty Harry Movies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- Eliot (2009), p.331
- Eliot, Marc (2009). American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-33688-0.
- Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-902-7.
- Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-790-X.
- The Dead Pool at the Internet Movie Database
- The Dead Pool at AllMovie
- The Dead Pool at Box Office Mojo