(In French, On TV, October 2018) The sequel to 1978’s Any Which Way but Loose once again features Clint Eastwood as a brawler looking for love (Sondra Locke, obviously) alongside his pet chimpanzee. As with its prequel, Any Which Way You Can also proves that Eastwood’s talent for comedy is … limited. Once again, the film is a comedy largely because it’s not a drama—it plays with incongruous elements, features Eastwood in a role when he can be cheered for punching people in the face and fighting Nazi bikers. Perhaps what’s most remarkable about this sequel is that it ends up giving to its protagonist what the original denied: The girl and the fighting victory. Whether this is a reflection of giving fans what they wanted or ushering the nicer, kinder, more entertainment-driven 1980s is a matter of debate, but it does make the sequel more conventional, more satisfying and somehow less distinctive. Any Which Way You Can is worth seeing if you’ve seen the first film or are an unconditional Eastwood (or Locke) fan, otherwise it’s not particularly memorable.
(On DVD, April 2018) Every entry in the Dirty Harry series has been a small but perceptible notch below the previous one, and Sudden Impact is no exception. By this time, the series has devolved in a near-parody of the character, as Callahan goes around shooting criminals and causing heart attacks with the film chugging along approvingly. It’s an excuse for Harry to get out of town, though and before long he’s out of the familiar San Francisco frame and stuck in a small seaside town where there’s a serious serial killing spree going on. Which brings us to the real story of the film, about a sexual assault victim taking revenge upon her aggressors, and Harry being dropped in the middle of that plot. In some ways, Sudden Impact is what happens when a serious (serious isn’t incompatible with exploitative) crime drama gets taken over by a franchise character tourist. Suddenly, Harry and his dog are in the middle of a story that could very well have been told without them. The clash is rather interesting to watch—at times, far more than taking Harry at face value as he gets a bigger gun, one less partner and even fewer enemies at the end of the film than at the beginning. Clint Eastwood is imperturbable as Harry Callahan—he also directs in a matter-of-fact fashion, and gives the lead female role to his then-long-time partner Sondra Locke, who’s actually quite intriguing in an unconventional way here. The result is misshapen, often ugly, not quite respectable and definitely another step down in the series, but those watching the Dirty Harry series box set will feel as if they got their money’s worth out of Sudden Impact.