But really, there's a curious matter of fact quality to the movie that is really intriguing. The murder mystery part was, it must be admitted, pretty basic and not particularly suspenseful. But that's not the only reason - it's something about the lack of character development maybe, such that everything that happens seems somewhat arbitrary, but not necessarily improbable. For instance, sure, Clint Eastwood and Patricia Clarkson can have a romance. We kind of see it coming, but then again, there's not really much in the way of romantic tension. Or romance period - the only real evidence we have of their relationship, aside from one moment when Clint comforts her after they've been attacked, which could just as easily be construed as simple decency - is that he spends the night at her house. We know this because he gets in her car, and his partner picks him up at her place. We never actually see it. It neither adds nor detracts anything from the rest of the film. Same goes, really, for the killer's lunacy. Yeah, ok, he's crazy. Not really surprising. Not really necessary, but hey, it works just as well as any other explanation, right? It's like there's a kind of meh, whatever ethos pervading the film, where the people involved wanted to work just hard enough to produce a movie that wasn't bad, but not necessarily hard enough to make something really good. It even comes through in the way that Clint Eastwood shoots people. Everything he does is careful and measured - there's never a sense that he's in a hurry, even if he's moving quickly. When he shoots people, the gun is always tilted quite low, as though he didn't feel like exerting the effort to point the gun directly at them. It should be acknowledged that the film does hold itself to a rather high standard when it comes to plausibility. There's no real funny business in the plot, unless you count the partner's past with gangs. Again, this isn't to say that it's dull, just that it lacks the over-the-top quality that most movies of the genre possess.
So it's not a great movie. But it's not a bad one either. As far as Dirty Harry movies go, you've got to admit that there are better ones. But as far as movies in general go, there are a lot of much worse ones too.