Dirty Harry Left and Right

The left is getting smarter. Mike Dukakis, under siege by Jesse Jackson and other Third and Fourth Worlders in Atlanta, selected none other than the stately Lloyd Bentsen to join him on the Democrat ticket. Similarly there are surprising recent eruptions in the film world: The Left has learned how to imitate Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris for its own subver­sive purposes.

Imagine Norris, not as a vengeful former POW wreaking havoc upon communists, but a middle-class, ethnic avenger of the masses. Imagine him further, fitted out with all the credentials of a special prosecutor, decked with authority by Congress, and giving hell to executive branch myrmidons. Now you get the picture.

Steven Seagal, in “Above the Law,” is an Italian American who got his education in Japan, in a Ninja school. His training on top of his natural abilities made him a real trooper in Vietnam, where he killed many gooks. But then he encountered, alas, an emissary from the CIA. Scenes of torturous interrogations shocked him. His whole way of thinking underwent a transformation. He grew.

Our hero left the service to become a policeman, when he encountered again the same wicked man from the CIA, now become a major Central American landowner by fostering war and pestilence among brown foreigners. The CIA seeks to persecute the Sanctuary Movement, which is conveniently located in Steven Seagal’s church—which he attends infre­quently, but at opportune moments. The Sanctuary Movement is hiding a woman who has seen, and has proof regarding, the wickedness of the CIA.

None of this is particularly extraordinary, though the action of the movie is on the whole good; featuring plenty of high-velocity machine guns and a respect­able body-count, it makes for an entertaining watch. But the real point is in the politics of it all.

The distant hero is a pretty Senator who is inves­tigating the shenanigans of the CIA. Of course the latter is planning to kill her. Also mixed in are a number of homilies to the investigative press—also assumed, along with Congress, to be more representa­tive of the people than executive types. Finally, we close with a huge and lovely shot of the Capitol and Seagal’s voice explaining how vital to our liberties is the exercise of congressional over executive power. Apparently the spirit of Bill Casey is a greater threat to our liberties than Daniel Ortega and his gang in Managua.

“Above the Law” is the most systematic of the recent examples in this genre. Another is “Shake-down,” starring Peter Weller. In this one, the criminal branch of government remains the same while the good guys are found not in the legislature but in the courts. Weller, fresh from his rise to stardom in “Robocop” (which also sounds the liberal themes), is a lawyer for the defense. Of course he uncovers police corruption on a considerable scale. In one scene he is almost murdered in the police station, and makes a mad rush furiously pursued by police cars for the courthouse; cut off from his goal at the curb, he is saved by the noble intervention of a lady judge and a fat, female bailiff who faces down the cops.

These films are meant to win converts from a crowd that has been hostile to the less entertaining overtures of Hollywood’s Left at least since the Ira­nian hostage crisis. They demonstrate that you can be manly to the max and still sensitive to the right causes—smash up faces in the morning, bury the dead in the afternoon, and read The New York Review of Books at night.

Still there’s the real thing to see, Clint Eastwood’s latest—albeit not his best—”The Dead Pool,” wherein we are reminded that evil can’t be expunged under the Marquis of Queensbury rules. As usual, Harry does battle with his superiors, who are a bit skeptical of what have been called his “decidedly pre-Miranda tactics,” as well as with bad men and savages. As in the Western genre to which these owe so much, what wins out in the end is the spirited commitment to justice that Americans recognized and admired in the actions and speeches of Messrs. North and Poindexter last summer.