Sudden Impact (1983)

sudden impact poster 1983 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10

A change-up in Dirty Harry formats for the second half

Dirty Harry's kind of formulaic, Sondra Locke

Movie Info

Movie Name: Sudden Impact

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): December 9, 1983

MPAA Rating: R


Wait, you did make my day…thanks buddy!

“Go ahead, make my day!” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) has made mistakes, but his most recent one got a case thrown out of court and made him a target of the mob by forcing a mob boss to have a heart attack at his daughter’s wedding. To get Harry out of the city, he’s assigned to find information on a murder involving a man who was sexually mutilated before being killed. Harry goes to San Paulo to background checks on the man and finds that murders might not be over. When another murder with the same mode of execution occurs, Harry realizes there is more to the case than he thought and discovers there might be ties between police chief Lester Jannings (Pat Hingle) and a mysterious painter named Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke).


Well, at least I look psycho

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Sudden Impact is a police action film.  Following The Enforcer in 1976, the film is the fourth entry in Dirty Harry series. The movie received mixed reviews from critics, but ended up being the highest grossing Dirty Harry movie of the series.

You probably know Sudden Impact even if you don’t know Sudden Impact.  The movie is mostly remember for its famous line “Go ahead, make my day!” as Harry challenges a man to give him the opportunity to shoot him without guilt (an almost identical line had actually been used in a movie called Vice Squad in 1982).  The film is classic Eastwood and classic ’80s police drama.

The movie like most Dirty Harry movies, the movie starts out pretty formulaic. Harry’s law above order style of policing leads him in conflict with his bosses, judges, society, etc., but by the end of the film, his style of justice is what solves the case. The movie takes way too long to get to the San Paulo portion of the film and has a lot of useless parts like conversations with Dirty Harry alum Albert Popwell who this time plays Harry’s friend Horace King. Once Harry gets to San Paulo the format does change a bit.


Oh yeah, Harry’s about to get dirty!

The Sondra Locke portion of the story can be debated. There is a kind of cheesy factor to the San Paulo parts of the movie (including one of the worst fake bicycle wrecks I’ve ever seen on camera). It tries to make Harry sensitive and starts a pretty misguided and underdeveloped romance with Locke (Eastwood and Locke really did have a relationship). Locke does seem like a strong enough character to pull off the vengeful Spencer…I know they were trying to give her a bit of a softer side, but it made neither side work. The big showdown at the amusement park was fun and shot nicely.

Sudden Impact shows a bit of a change in Dirty Harry…he lets the killer go free. What starts out as the standard set up kind of changes halfway through the film. Yeah, Harry still punches a lesbian/bisexual? character (Audrie J. Neenan) in the face a few times, but for the most part he becomes a kinder, gentler Harry. Sudden Impact was followed by The Dead Pool in 1988.

Related Links:

Dirty Harry (1971)

Magnum Force (1973)

The Enforcer (1976)

The Dead Pool (1988)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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