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In a high tech world is a character like Harry Callahan still relevant? Dateline doesn't need a Magnum to catch a predator; they use the internet. And if the punk says his rights are being violated, there's a chat room trail and video footage to make his case. Today's heroes fight crime using DNA evidence, as seen on shows like CSI, and contemporary video vigilantes don't kill criminals, they shame them on YouTube.
With each sequel in the Dirty Harry series Eastwood's crime fighter evolves but he never sits down at a computer. He wouldn't like catching criminals the way cops do today. Where's the fun in that? After The Dead Pool, Die Hard's John McClane continued the tradition, but you'll notice in the last installment, Live Free or Die Hard, McClane has to run around with a geeky computer hacker to get the job done. Will straight-up tough guys have to retire?
It's a valid question. But on the other hand, advances like cop-car cameras could help someone like Harry because they can show when an officer's actions are justified. If there's one thing Harry has a knack for, it's killing criminals when the case is clear. His punishment always fits the crime so the audience never worries about whether he got the wrong guy. As he says in Dirty Harry, "When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher's knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross!" Maybe if his superiors and the public saw that chase caught on tape, Harry would finally get the respect he deserves.
In the end, today's crime fighters might get the job done but they lack Harry's style and ability to turn a phrase. It's great that men are out there shaming sexual offenders off the streets, but it's not nearly as entertaining as Harry Callahan's approach.
Watch in Magnum Force as he takes on corrupt cops and says, "A man has to know his limitations." For a complete schedule on this movie on AMC, click here.