May 31, 2013

Friday Fight: Harry Callahan vs. Paul Kersey

If ever there’s a tough battle to choose from it’s this: “Dirty” Harry Callahan vs. Paul Kersey, two of the most iconic action badasses of the 70s/80s.
Both characters are hard as nails and it’s difficult for me to picture any other actors playing these roles.
The movies were gritty as Hell and didn’t skimp on violence either. But which character is the more badass?
Let the Games Begin!

Harry Callahan: Clint Eastwood – The Dirty Harry Series

Arguably the greatest movie cop of all time, without him there would be no John McClane, Cobra or the other iconic action heroes. Dirty Harry likes to play by his own rules and really has a problem with authority and bureaucrats. We can all relate to that.
He’s the kind of guy who shoots first and asks questions later and at the time of release he caused quite a bit of controversy for easily offended critics.
He pretty much invented the bad ass one-liner but they were never cheesy, just cool. Eastwood played the character to perfection, making him tough and likable which is a not an easy job considering some of the stuff he does. His weapon of choice is the Magnum 44 which can apparently blow your head clean off.
Like Kersey he doesn’t want to tolerate criminals and just wants them gone… one way or another.
For me Dirty Harry is Clint Eastwood’s best character and it’s no wonder he returned to play him another 4 times.

Paul Kersey: Charles Bronson – The Death Wish Series

The first two Death Wish movies are brutal, disturbing and stick with you long after watching. Unlike Dirty Harry, Paul Kersey isn’t a cop; he’s an architect who is a happily married family man. When his wife and daughter are brutally assaulted by thugs, his world is transformed forever.
Like Harry Callahan, Kersey is sick of red tape and what appears to be nothing happening regarding the capture of the criminals who attacked his family.He decides that if no one else is going to do it then it’s up to him to clean up the streets. He spends his nights shooting muggers, murderers and anyone else who gets in his way. Like Harry he shoots first… but never asks questions.
Bronson plays Kersey ice cool and after everything he goes through, you totally understand why he feels the need to do what he does. He’s essentially a superhero without a cape.
Death Wish 3 is a kick-ass action movie but as the series progresses they do lapse a little into parody losing the grit of the original two movies. I would also say that Kersey does lack the personality of Callahan, making him a little less interesting.


So for me the winner of this battle is Dirty Harry Callahan. He may play by his own rules but he always gets his man and he cleans up the streets in a slightly saner fashion than Kersey. For the record, wouldn’t it have been cool to see these two characters in the same movie?

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel

I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it’s a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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