The Dead Pool

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Dead pool (disambiguation).
The Dead Pool
The Dead Pool.jpg
Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Buddy Van Horn
Produced by David Valdes
Screenplay by Steve Sharon
Story by Steve Sharon
Durk Pearson
Sandy Shaw
Based on characters created by Harry Julian Fink
R.M. Fink
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Edited by Ron Spang
Joel Cox (sup.)
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • July 13, 1988 (1988-07-13)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $31 million[1]
Box office $37,903,295

The Dead Pool is a 1988 American action film 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 Jim Carrey (in his first action 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, an actor who had played a different character in each of the previous four films.

At 91 minutes, it is the shortest of the five Dirty Harry film series. Like those films, The Dead Pool is notable for coining catchphrases uttered by Clint Eastwood's gun-wielding character, one of which is:"Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one".


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), who was 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 down 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 triple 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, claiming responsibility 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 to 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 controlled 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, reminiscent of the famous chase sequence in Bullitt, 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 grandfather: "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.


The Dead Pool is the only Dirty Harry film in which Albert Popwell does not appear. He was not available due to a scheduling conflict with filming on Who's That Girl.

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.[2]


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.""[3] The Dead Pool was filmed between February and March 1988 in San Francisco.[4]

Car chase[edit]

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 powered by Reedy motor that had to be geared up high to a 8.4v NiCd battery topped with an off-the-shelf 1963 Chevrolet Corvette body by Parma International. The car had its suspension lowered from the original for a lower ground clearance. Needing the best driver to carry out the stunt, Van Horn chose the 1985 off-road world champion radio control driver Jay Halsey. At first, Van Horn was unsure if the R/C car could keep up with the Oldsmobile so for the scene where they started from the top of the hill, the director allowed the two cars to start together, as a result, the former led the latter therefore the shot had to reshot with Eastwood reaching the bottom first. At one take in a scene where the cars jumped, the RC10 jumped over the Oldsmobile and waited for it at the end of the street. Halsey was only required to drive his car at full speed at a scene where the bomb was about to be detonated. These scene took a week and a half to film and a motorized tricycle with a camera mounted at ground level was used to film the RC10.[5] 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.[4] Eastwood has said that the chase was his favorite part of the film. The necessity of closing down various continuously busy city streets meant that the sequences tend to jump about from district to district, much as the similar scenes did in the McQueen film, making for a number of continuity errors that are easily overlooked during the fast-paced scenes, much as the motorcycle chase scenes in the second Harry film jumped around but are seldom mentioned.


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[edit]

The Dead Pool was released in United States theaters in July 1988.[6] In its opening weekend, the film took $9,071,330 in 1,988 theaters in the US, at an average of $4,954.[7] 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.[6][8]


The song "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses appears as the theme song for Swan's movie, as used in a scene during filming where Johnny Squares is lip-synching. The band can be seen as extras during the funeral scene. The traditional Dirty Harry End Theme (Variously called "Harry's Theme", "Sad Theme" and with lyrics "This Side of Forever") is given a full Hollywood Big Band treatment, lasting longer than any other film version of the song, perhaps as a coda to the entire series.


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?"[9]


  1. ^ Box Office Information for The Dead Pool. The Wrap. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
  2. ^ "Flashback Five - The Best Dirty Harry Movies". American Movie Classics. Retrieved September 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ Munn, p. 218
  4. ^ a b Hughes, p.76
  5. ^ DeFrancesco, Louis; Hustings, Gene (August 1988). "Dead Pool". Radio Control Car Action. Air Age Media. p. 56. 
  6. ^ a b Hughes, p.77
  7. ^ "The Dead Pool". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 1, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Dirty Harry Movies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ Eliot (2009), p.331


External links[edit]