Patricia Clarkson

D is for The Dead Pool (1988)

Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target.

The Dead Pool is the fifth and (so far but I doubt there’ll ever be more but who knows with the likes of Harrison Ford still making Indiana Jones movies) final Dirty Harry movie. Like its predecessors, it has Harry growling at anyone who gets in his way and being involved in wanton destruction, but while this film has its action and violence, it’s surprisingly funny.

The Dead Pool has one of the most entertaining and inventive car chase sequences I’ve seen, and it contains a remote-control car the exudes menace. It makes great use of its San Francisco setting with all the hills and the score is just great. It’s equally parts fun and thrilling which I really wasn’t expecting from when the remote-control car first appeared.

Harry Callahan gets a new partner in Al Quan (Evan C. Kim) and they and their fellow officers are very aware that Harry’s partners often get injured or killed on the job. Al and Harry have an easy report with each other almost straightaway as Al rolls with the whatever dangerous situations he ends up in by being connected to Harry. However, it is a bit stereotypical that as Al is Asian American, he knows martial arts and stops a bad guy by using his skills.

Part of the fun of watching The Dead Pool is seeing some of the actors who are involved. Jim Carrey plays a musician, Patricia Clarkson reporter Samantha Walker who wants to do a piece on Harry, and Liam Neeson plays horror movie director, Peter Swan, who gets caught up in the celebrity murder contest. Neeson’s Swan is a wonderfully over-the-top director who gets under a lot of people’s skin due to his perfectionism and his temper. The scenes with Swan and Callahan are great fun as their personalities are such opposites you’re never sure which one is going to snap first.

The Dead Pool is a fun, entertaining crime film. Plus, its runtime is under 90 minutes and while there’s a lot going on, the pacing is good and the mystery keeps you guessing and intrigued as Harry slowly unravels the case. 4/5.

REVIEW: Learning to Drive (2014)

learning-to-drive-posterWhen her marriage ends Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) decides to take driving lessons. Her instructor Darwan (Ben Kingsley) is a Sikh man who is having marriage problems of his own. Together they try to help each other both on and off the road.

Wendy’s life has been turned upside down when her husband leaves her for another woman, her daughter Tasha (Grace Gummer) and sister Debbie (Samantha Bee) each try to help her but they still have their own lives to live. Darwan, on the other hand, tries to look after his nephew Preet (Avi Nash) and his new wife Jasleen (Sarita Choudhury). Darwan works to jobs and dishes out good advice but sometimes he doesn’t always take it. He and Wendy form an unlikely friendship and they each learn from each other.

Learning to Drive is perhaps a little predictable but the performances really elevate the film. Clarkson and Kingsley are amazing to watch, their conversations during the driving lessons are interesting and often witty. The pairs chemistry and talent really shines through in those moments.

A great thing about Learning to Drive is that it gives you a small insight into Sikh culture. It’s the little details that shine through and help shows how the various rituals have such an impact on Darwan’s life and how he enjoys being a devout Sikh.

There’s nothing that surprising about Learning to Drive and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a gentle sort of film with a certain amount of charm about second chances and making your own way in the world. 3/5.