And it ends not with a bang, but with a thud. “The Dead Pool” is a truly anti-climactic end for a man who has spent all of his five films running around and blasting assholes with his hand cannon without remorse and finally finds that he’s really not chasing much of an enemy in the end. “The Dead Pool” has some considerable mystery to it but the villain that is supplied for Harry Callahan’s last romp is not only boring, but doesn’t have much to do for the entirety of the film.
The film is notable for featuring supporting performances from then unknown actors Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, and Patricia Clarkson as well as garnering cameos from rising rock band Guns N Roses. Jim Carrey plays rock star/actor Johnny Squares who is painfully addicted to drugs and is attacked in his trailer by a mystery assailant who over doses him purposely and murders him. One of the more interesting and perfunctory inclusions to the script is that the villain themselves are patterned to be a mystery to the audience. It’s implied throughout the script that perhaps the villain committing these murders are someone Harry knows or is getting close to, and then suddenly drops that idea in favor of introducing a villain we’ve never heard of and ends up just being a stock run of the mill psychopath.
I never understood why the editing and script seem to indicate that the murderer is probably one of the characters Harry is investigating and then just sheds the mystery mid-way. Meanwhile Harry is given an unusual sub-plot he was instrumental in the jailing of a famous crime boss and now has to grapple with sudden fame and respect from the press. You figure all those years of crashing cars in to stores and busting terrorists who took school buses with kids hostage would grant him celebrity status, but ironically he experiences it in this instance. And oddly enough his short wave of appreciation brings with it a fanbase.
The concept of the Dead pool as a means of assassinating various people on a list is also barely explored as Harry really isn’t affected by it in the long run and the murders are less systematic and more random and violent. Overall a lot of the motivation for the plot and drama is thrown away before the big climax. “The Dead Pool” really should have been a time for Harry Callahan to have a last hurrah. Maybe like something out of “Unforgiven.” But instead it feels like one of the lesser exciting Harry Callahan that doesn’t exactly send the character with much of an explosive sign off. While it is an entertaining crime thriller and an interesting twist on the “Dirty Harry” formula, it sadly doesn’t send the character out on a bang as I’d originally hoped and instead feels like a thud in the end. There will never be anyone like Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.