Magnum Force (1973)

magnum force poster 1973 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Harry Callahan is back

Not as good of story as the first movie

Movie Info

Movie Name: Magnum Force

Studio: The Malpaso Company

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Drama

Release Date(s): December 25, 1973

MPAA Rating: R

magnum force shooting range harry callahan clint eastwood

Watch and learn kids

Someone is killing criminals in San Francisco in high profile hits that are attracting attention.  Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) wants to know who and despite being on a stakeout squad, he intends to find out…much to the chagrin of Lieutenant Neil Briggs (Hal Holbrook).  Harry has a bad suspicion about the identity of the killer and he and his partner “Early” Smith (Felton Perry) have to find out the truth.  The killer is getting more brazen, and Harry could be making himself a target.

Directed by Ted Post, Magnum Force is an action-adventure film.  A follow-up to Dirty Harry from 1971, the film was more successful than the first film and received moderate to positive reviews.

magnum force killer cops

The Village People are missing a singer

Watching Dirty Harry in modern day is odd.  You see a cop stepping over the boundaries of the law and being lauded for it (even if he does take some critical hits).  Magnum Force shows an odd flipside to Dirty Harry and as a result is a good companion piece to the first film.  Due to aspects of the plot, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

Harry was “out of control” in the first film.  He broke the law and got stuff done.  Here, you have a team of renegade cops doing the same thing.  They are targeting criminals and becoming judge, jury, and executioner in regards to the crimes…collateral damage is ok.  It isn’t too far off from Harry’s perspective, but Harry’s judgment is supposed to be better and better informed than the renegade cops.  It is a tricky balance that the movie relatively maintains.

magnum force shooting compeittion harry callaghan clint eastwood

Oh…Did I shoot a cop? My bad…

Eastwood’s Harry was a bit softened for the movie.  He is more thoughtful and more racially just.  Eastwood performed many of his own stunts on the film which adds to the realism in the movie.  The back-up cast for the movie also is good.  David Soul gets to be one of the “bad cops” before being a good cop on Starsky & Hutch.  Tim Matheson is also one of the bad cops along with Robert Ulrich.  I like Hal Holbrook, but he’s a bit obvious as the secret leader since he had a bit of a name already when Magnum Force was made.

The movie maintains the solid shooting style of the first film and gives San Francisco a real edge.  The city is often glamorized and today’s San Francisco is far different from the San Francisco of the 1970s.  The movie gets that gritty and dirty look that it needs.

magnum force hal holbrook

Harry…you’re making my life pretty crappy

There was some controversy surrounding Magnum Force after what was known as the Hi-Fi Murders in Odgen, Utah in 1974.  Robbers hit an electronics store and forced the people inside to drink Drain-O.  After the men were captured, they said they got the idea from Magnum Force in which a pimp (Albert Popwell) murders a prostitute (Margaret Avery) in the back of a cab.

Magnum Force is still a fun ’70s action flick.  There is enough of a retro feel to have fun, but the action is still strong enough to hold up.  The contrast between this movie and Dirty Harry is one of the reasons to tune in now that Harry now has stepped up as a defender of the law…something you’d never expect him to do previously.  Magnum Force was followed by The Enforcer in 1976.

Related Links:

Dirty Harry (1971)

The Enforcer (1976)

Sudden Impact (1983)

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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