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Film / The Dead Pool

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Dirty Harry just learned a new game.

Directed by Buddy Van Horn and released in 1988, The Dead Pool is the last film (preceded by Sudden Impact) in the Dirty Harry pentalogy, starring Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan for the last time.

Det. Harry Callahan is tasked to solve a string murders related to a game based on a list of celebrities that are predicted to die next: The Dead Pool. The case makes him a small celebrity too, and he becomes a target as well. To make matters worse, Harry is also hounded by the mob.

Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey, both on the cusp of becoming big stars, each appear in supporting roles.

Has no relation whatsoever to Deadpool.

This film has the examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Harry performs a gun twirl like the Man With No Name.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Kwan takes down one of the gunmen in Chinatown with a flurry of punches, followed up with an impressive spinning heel kick.
  • Badass Boast:
    Harry: Fuck with me, buddy, I'll kick your ass so hard you'll have to unbutton your collar to shit.
  • Batman Cold Open: The film opens with mob hitmen out to kill Harry.
  • BFG: Harry's Magnum, obviously. Exaggerated after the Big Bad takes Harry's gun from him; Harry grabs a harpoon gun to finish him off.
  • Big Bad: Harlan Rook, The Dead Pool Killer.
  • Bond One-Liner: After killing Rook by impaling him with a harpoon gun, Harry says to Capt. Donnelly, "He's hanging out back there."
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted at the end of the film when the Big Bad takes Harry's revolver. Harry knows how many rounds are left and when the villain has fired off the last round, Harry says, "You're out of bullets. And you know what that means. You're shit out of luck" before impaling him through a wall with a harpoon gun.
  • Call-Back: Early in the movie Harry walks past a series of memorial plaques to police officers of San Francisco killed in the line of duty. They are the same plaques featured in the opening of Dirty Harry.
  • The Cameo: Guns N' Roses make uncredited cameo appearances at the funeral of Johnny Squares. They also appear during filming of a "nightmare scene" at the docks, where Slash fires a harpoon gun through a window and is berated by Swan.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The enormous Harpoon Gun from the film shoot.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the collected headlines in Samantha's notebook about Harry reads "Scorpio Killer Captured".
  • Deadly Remote Control Toy: Rook kills talk show host Nolan Kennard, another person on the dead pool list, using a radio-controlled car filled with C4 explosive under the victim's vehicle. Dirty Harry Callahan finds a toy car wheel at the crime scene, and later sees another toy car following him and Quan. Recognizing the threat, they flee through the city pursued by the toy car and Rook himself controlling it from his car.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: While spotting Quan weightlifting, Harry becomes distracted by a woman working out, hilarity ensues as Quan get stuck under the barbell.
  • Don't Explain the Joke The female reporter notes how Harry is having his 15 minutes. Then has to explain to Harry how Andy Warhol said everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, a well-known comment Harry is clearly old enough to have heard before.
  • Double Standard: A female journalist blackmails Harry into going to dinner with her. Imagine what would happen if a male journalist did that to a female cop.
  • Dub Name Change: Harry was renamed Harry Callaghan for the Italian release because the local distributor thought it sounded better.
  • Evil Brit: Rook speaks with a British accent. He more likely counts as an in universe Fake Brit, as he's taken on Peter Swan's persona due to his psychological condition.
  • Exorcist Head: Appears in the film that Peter Swan is directing. When the effect causing it malfunctions, Johnny Squares, fed up, accuses Swan for ripping off The Exorcist.
    Swan: This is not a rip-off. It's a homage, you stupid...
  • Fame Through Infamy: One of the random threats that Harry has to deal with is a man who calls saying he wants to confess the Dead Pool murders and he's going to set himself on fire... and when he's getting interviewed by Samantha, the man admits that he just made that call to have reporters come to the scene because he wanted to commit suicide by setting himself on fire and become remembered for it. Samantha manages to discourage him by turning off the camera and saying that nobody will air his death.
  • Genre Savvy: Aware of the fate of Harry's previous partners, Quan wears a Bulletproof Vest. He survives with only a few broken ribs after the remote-car bomb goes off. The only other partner of Harry's to survive was Chico from the first movie, also thanks to his vest.
  • Good Luck Charm: Quan's tattoos, which his grandfather insisted he get after hearing he was Harry's partner. Harry tells him a bulletproof vest would be more practical. Fortunately Quan's grandfather also told him, "When your partner gives you advice, take it."
  • Gotta Kill Them All: An unusual example. Peter Swan is revealed to have a "dead pool" (list of celebrities that he bets will die soon) going on with other members of his film crew, and Harlan Rook is going around murdering the people on the list hoping that once the police find out about the dead pool they will suspect Swan. Of course, there is the huge Spanner in the Works that is Harry Callahan being on that list…
  • Grand Finale: The end of the line for Dirty Harry. Eastwood retired the character after this movie, stating that his age would make him a parody.
  • Large Ham: Johnny Squares. Its a given when you're played by Jim Carrey.
  • Loony Fan: Harlan Rook is an obsessed fan of Peter Swan. Out of touch from reality, he accuses Swan of stealing ideas from him and tries frame him with the Dead Pool murders.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Harlan Rook, whose surname is bird which is a part of the same family as crows and ravens.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Subverted. Harlan Rook rages that Peter Swan stole the ideas of his films from Rook, and so his killing spree is justified revenge, but it's quickly revealed that Rook is just plain delusionally nuts.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: The film has this during the Chinatown restaurant robbery scene:
    Harry Callahan: You forgot your fortune cookie.
    Lead Robber: [turns] WHAT?
    [Harry gives a smug grin, and pulls out a fortune]
    Harry Callahan: It says, "You're shit out of luck." [shoots the lead robber]
  • Prima Donna Director: The egotistical horror film director Peter Swan.
  • Red Herring:
    • For most of the film it looks like egotistical horror director Peter Swan is the Dead Pool killer, but at the end the real killer turns out to be Harlan Rook, a crazed fan of Swan's.
    • Before the talk show host is murdered via car bomb, a man recently fired by Swan is seen at a hardware store wearing a Hotel Satan jacket, watching him on some in store TVs and buying some stuff that could be used to make a bomb.
  • Rule of Three: While investigating the death of a drug-abusing rocker, Harry's partner Al Quan states his personal belief that celebrities always die in threes.
  • Self-Immolation: Harry, with the help of Samantha, defuses a situation where a guy demands cameras to film him setting himself on fire.
  • Shared Fate Ultimatum: "Dirty" Harry Callahan has, through the course of the film, been the subject of two different assassination plots, one by a mob boss he busted, and another involving the titular list. Figuring to put a kibosh on at least one, Harry bribes a large convict to stand at the end of a corridor and look menacing. He then tells the mob boss a story about the convict being a renowned killer.
    Harry: I'm going to be sending him a letter once a week, and I'm going to be telling him how I'm gonna be looking in on his sick mother, and how I'm trying to get him special privileges here at the prison. And you know what's the interesting part? The interesting part is if anything happens to me, and Hicks doesn't get his letter, he's going to be really pissed off, and he's going to come down here and see you because you're the mail man. In fact he'll probably come down here to this post office and cancel your ass like a stamp. So you'd better ensure prompt, courteous delivery, and pray that nothing happens to me.
  • Shout-Out
    • The chase scene with the explosive RC car, is a shout out to The Chase Scene in Bullitt.
    • The "calling for an ambulance in advance" stunt is from The New Centurions.
  • Take That, Critics!: Molly Fisher, the film critic who becomes the second murder victim is based on Pauline Kael, in response to her accusing the first film of promoting fascism.
  • Villain Opening Scene: Before we see Harry, we first see Rook in his apartment, watching the news and reading a Rolling Stone magazine while making the Dead Pool list, though his face is obscured during the scene.