• In his third "Dirty Harry" movie, THE ENFORCER, Clint Eastwood once again demonstrates his ability to fashion a contemporary moral drama from those aspects of "social reality" which present-day liberals tend to ignore or dismiss as unimportant. Recreating his role as San Francisco detective Harry Callahan, Eastwood is harassed by political and bureaucratic ineptitude as he attempts to track down a gang of self-styled revolutionaries, who are threatening the city 'with an arsenal of military-type weaponry. Although Eastwood has been accused of portraying a "Fascist cop," there is little evidence of it here; his only questionable activity involves roughing up the operators of a massage parlor which would qualify as a consumer fraud under almost any libertarian standard. To his credit, Eastwood (who has virtually complete creative control of all his movies) does not resort to persecuting people involved in victimless crimes (unlike most television cop shows, and real-life police departments). Instead, he concentrates his fire on those who use violence against innocent victims, and on the politicians who attempt to render the police ineffective in order to improve their "image." The movie contains a generous amount of violence, but there is no attempt to make it glamorous. Tyne Daly provides excellent support as the new partner foisted upon an unwilling Eastwood, as does Harry Guardino, who plays Eastwood's long-suffering boss. The screenplay by Stirling Silliphant and Dean Riesner provides occasional and much-needed touches of humor, while James Fargo's direction is crisp and forceful. Rated "R."
• Perhaps no movie could be expected to live up to the hype surrounding Dino De Laurentiis' massive $24 million remake of KING KONG, billed as "the most exciting, original motion picture event of our time." Exciting it is, intermittently; original it clearly is not. In every department except technical virtuosity, the 1976 edition is clearly inferior to the 1933 original. The script is the biggest disappointment. Although Lorenzo Semple's screenplay credibly updates the story to the present (this time the expedition is searching for oil, not a prehistoric beast), much of the dialogue seems lifted from all the "B" movies ever made. Jessica Lange, in the Fay Wray role, suffers especially in this regard. The script forces her to portray stupidity instead of innocence; her encounters with Kong sound like the television parodies made famous by Cher. Jeff Bridges, as a socially-conscious anthropologist, is somewhat more believable, though his love affair with would-be starlet Jessica Lange isn't. Kong himself, thanks to 43 years of technological progress, is easier to identify with; the emotional range of the beast has been considerably expanded. Kong's rampage through New York, culminating in a mad flight to the top of the World Trade Center, provides as much spectacle as any audience could expect. It's a shame that it took $24 million to prove that spectacle is no substitute for soul. Rated "PG."
• Writer and star Sylvester Stallone has succeeded in concocting a romantic drama from some very unlikely ingredients. ROCKY has the look and feel of the gritty, grimy "realistic" pictures which abound today in depressing numbers. The story, about a small-time boxer getting an unexpected shot at the world heavyweight championship, would appear to be the stuff of parody. But in both writing and acting, Stallone plays the story straight, never once cheating his audience (which, at the screening I attended, repeatedly broke into cheers). The supporting players seem vividly true-to-life, especially Talia Shire as Stallone's shy girl friend, and Burgess Meredith as manager of a run-down boxing arena. The climactic fight between Stallone and his Ali-like opponent (Carl Weathers) is so realistic it's almost impossible to tell it was staged. The movie's tone tends toward the natural and understated, so that the audience seems to be watching people going about their business rather than actors acting. Rocky is a unique blend of romanticism and realism, the first (but hopefully not last) of its type. Rated "PG."