The Dead Pool (1988)

Directed by Buddy Van Horn
Written by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw
Produced by David Valdes
Starring Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Jim Carrey, Michael Goodwin, Ronnie Claire Edwards, Darwin Gillett, Anthony Charnota, Diego Chairs, Victoria Bastel, Christopher P. Beale, John Vick, Louis Giambalvo, Nicholas Love, Maureen McVerry, Glenn Wright, Shawn Elliott, Ren Reynolds, Bill Wattenburg, Peter Anthony Jacobs, Lloyd Nelson, John Frederick Jones


When he isn’t arguing with his department’s head of public relations (Goodwin) or dodging continual attempts of assassination ordered by a mob boss (Charnota) whose conviction was secured by his testimony, Lt. Harry Callahan (Eastwood) investigates with a new partner (Kim) serial murders by varied methods of a rock star (Carrey), film critic (Edwards), talk show’s host (Wattenburg), et al. itemized on the publicized dead pool of a choleric, cocksure filmmaker (Neeson) of schlocky, cinematic horrors. Her dogged coverage of his exploits brings the graying, leathertough detective into conflict, then bed with a televised news reporter (Clarkson) whose tenacity nearly matches his own.


Sharon, Pearson, and Shaw imparted devices and situations of interest to a story that was atrociously scripted by Sharon, whose cheesily unfunny dialog, social commentary as subtle as Callahan’s chambered caliber, and recurring imbecilities* stultify this movie every 10 to 15 minutes.


In light of their characters’ one-dimensional crudeness, only so much blame can be imputed to this cast for their unavoidable hamminess. Neeson and Carrey amusingly colored their parts just beyond tasteful lines, and while rock-solid Eastwood and charmingly chilly Clarkson (whose resemblance to Sondra Locke can’t be ignored) interplay swimmingly, they’ve neither heat nor a single smooch between them.


Composed and programmed for synthesizers, chamber orchestra, and jazz-rock ensemble, Lalo Schifrin’s score is among the worst of his career. Most of it sounds like a third-rate composer’s music for a trifling, telecast crime drama, as when the elegiacal end theme of Dirty Harry is brassily quoted in its own.

Highlights and notable *imbecilities

  • On the set of a macabre music video, Carrey skulkingly lip-syncs Welcome to the Jungle in a low point of both his career and the lives of everyone who’s watched this scene.
  • Guns n’ Roses are present in two cameos, possibly because market research evidenced that lightweight metalheads patronized both cock rock and action movies.
  • By chop-socky does Kim (performing his own stunts) subdue one violent wrongdoer because, you see, his character is Chinese.
  • Days later, he almost asphyxiates under the pressure of his weight bar while Eastwood ogles a fantastically sultry, sweaty female cop in the department’s gym when he should be spotting.
  • Among the killer’s many means of murder is an RC car laden with C4, which pursues Eastwood and Kim in the movie’s centerpiece, an impossible yet uniquely arresting automotive chase that’s adeptly shot and scrupulously cut by editor Ron Spang.
  • Nobody asked Dirty Harry to harpoon his franchise’s last lawbreaker.


Before and during Warner Brothers’s bids to compete with the outrageous, cartoonish violence and villainy of Golan-Globus’s successful properties (Cobra, The Delta Force, sequels to Death Wish, et cetera), every sequel of Don Siegel’s classic was progressively sillier than that anteceding, culminating in the preposterousness of this fifth, final film. Its skilled guidance by Van Horn, Eastwood’s preferred stunt coordinator, stunt double, and thrice-selected director, is unobjectionable, but can’t overcome its screenplay’s stupidest scenes.

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