The Dead Pool is a 1988 American crime thriller directed by Buddy Van Horn, written by Steve Sharon and starring Clint Eastwood as Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. It is the fifth and final film in the Dirty Harry series, set in San Francisco, California.
The story concerns the manipulation of a dead pool game by a serial killer, whose efforts are confronted by the hardened detective Callahan. It co-stars Liam Neeson, Patricia Clarkson and Jim Carrey, each of whom eventually went on to greater film fame.
At 91 minutes, it is the shortest of the five Dirty Harry films. It was also Jim Carrey's first non-comedy related movie.
Fame finally catches up with Harry Callahan. His testimony against crime kingpin Lou Janero puts the mobster in prison and Callahan on the cover of a San Francisco magazine as the city's ace crime fighter. Callahan is attacked by Janero's men at a turnoff near the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge while driving. He knocks down one with his car and shoots the remaining men dead. Callahan discovers he has been assigned a partner: Asian-American, martial arts-skilled partner Al Quan (Evan Kim). Unimpressed, he advises Quan to get a bulletproof vest (as his partners often get killed working with him). They are then assigned to investigate the death of rock singer Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey), killed in his trailer outside a meatpacking plant during filming of a slasher film directed by Peter Swan (Liam Neeson).
Later, Dean Madison, Swan's executive producer, is shot and killed during a Chinatown restaurant stickup. Harry and Quan see the holdup and rush to stop it; Harry manages to gun down all of the robbers inside the restaurant, except for one who manages to escape out the door but is subdued by Quan's expert martial-arts skills. Harry wryly compliments Quan's skill. When they examine the dead producer's belongings, they discover a note in his pocket with Harry and Johnny Squares's names on it. It turns out that the dead producer and Swan are carrying out a "dead pool" game in which participants try to predict celebrity deaths, either by natural causes or as a result of working in dangerous professions. In a turn of events, another celebrity on Swan's list, movie critic Molly Fisher, is stabbed and killed in her condominium.
Callahan is asked to cooperate with the media, particularly reporter and later love interest Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson), to balance their interference with the investigation. Walker proposes to do an in-depth profile on Callahan for her news report, to make up for an incident earlier in the film where Harry threw and ruined Walker's camera in an attempt to stop her crew from harassing Squares' girlfriend. However, Callahan wants to simply perform his job and stay out of the limelight. After dinner, they narrowly escape being killed by Janero's men, leading the reporter to reconsider the plight of police officers versus the public's right to know.
Callahan drives to the prison where Janero is serving his sentence. He promises a huge, chain-smoking quadruple murderer named Butcher Hicks a carton of cigarettes for his help in convincing Janero that if anything bad happens to Callahan, the vicious Butcher will pay Janero a visit. This results in Janero telling his men to stay away from Callahan while he is on duty. Callahan defuses a situation wherein a man named Gus Wheeler, rumored to be responsible for the murders, tries to get on the TV news by dousing himself in gasoline and threatening to light himself on fire if he even sees a fire truck or hose. Ultimately, it turns out that Wheeler is just an attention-seeker desperate to appear on camera. Harry and Quan later interview Swan and manage to get the name of another suspect: Harlan Rook, a schizophrenic and deranged fan of Swan who thinks his ideas and work have been stolen by Swan. Swan had obtained a restraining order against Rook about a year before.
Rook next kills controversial talk show host Nolan Kennard, another person on the list, using an ingenious device; he runs a remote control car containing a C4 explosive charge under the victim's vehicle as he is backing out of his driveway, and detonates it. Rook's car bomb is undetected by Callahan at the crime scene, although he does find a wheel of the radio control car, but thinks nothing of it until later, when he spots another radio controlled car following him in the streets. Recognizing the threat, Callahan and Quan flee in their unmarked car through San Francisco's hilly streets, pursued by Rook's radio car and by Rook himself in a full-size car. Eventually Callahan and Al Quan come to a dead end in an alleyway and the bomb car advances on them. Harry manages to reverse the car seconds before the bomb explodes, causing only the engine bay of his car to blow up (the firewall absorbing most of the explosive force). Quan is wounded in the blast, surviving with only broken ribs thanks to his bulletproof vest. When Callahan visits Quan in the hospital and asks about the vest, Quan reveals the other advice he was given: "When your partner gives you advice...you TAKE it." Callahan leaves with a smile.
Rook, disguised as Swan, calls Walker at the television station and invites her to Swan's film studio for an interview, which is actually a trap. The police, meanwhile raid Rook's apartment and discover torn posters of Swan's films and large quantities of explosives. Callahan hurries to Swan's studio, where Walker is held captive by Rook. Harry reluctantly surrenders his .44 Magnum revolver after Rook nearly slits her throat. Callahan lures him to a pier after a chase. Rook eventually runs out of ammunition, and Callahan uses this opportunity to shoot Rook with a harpoon, impaling him. Callahan leaves with Walker while the police arrive at the scene.
- Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan
- Patricia Clarkson as Samantha Walker
- Liam Neeson as Peter Swan
- Evan C. Kim as Inspector Al Quan
- David Hunt as Harlan Rook
- Michael Currie as Captain Donnelly
- Jim Carrey as Johnny Squares (credited as James Carrey)
- Anthony Charnota as Lou Janero
- Ronnie Claire Edwards as Molly Fisher
- Louis Giambalvo as Gus Wheeler
- Charles Martinet as Police Station Reporter