Sudden Impact is a 1983 American action thriller film and the fourth in the Dirty Harry series, directed by Clint Eastwood (making it the only Dirty Harry film to be directed by Eastwood himself) and starring Eastwood and Sondra Locke. The film tells the story of a gang rape victim (Locke) who decides to seek revenge on the rapists ten years after the attack by killing them one by one. Inspector Callahan (Eastwood), famous for his unconventional and often brutal crime-fighting tactics, is tasked with tracking down the serial killer.
The film is notable for the catchphrase "Go ahead, make my day", written by John Milius and uttered by Clint Eastwood's gun-wielding character in the beginning of the film as he stares down an armed robber who is holding a hostage.
In 1973, college-age artist Jennifer Spencer and her sister, Beth, are raped by a group of young men after being betrayed by female friend Ray Parkins. The brutal rape leaves Beth in a catatonic state. Ten years later, an enraged Spencer seeks revenge on the attackers. She kills one of the rapists, George Wilburn (Michael Maurer), with two shots—one to the genitals and one to the head—from a .38 Colt Detective Special revolver. Spencer leaves San Francisco because of the subsequent police investigation. Relocating to the town of San Paulo, she begins restoring its boardwalk's historic carousel near the beach where the rapes occurred.
Meanwhile, Inspector Harry Callahan is frustrated when a judge yet again dismisses one of his cases due to what she sees as unreasonable search and seizure. Later, at his favorite diner, Callahan foils a robbery and kills three of the criminals. When the surviving robber takes a hostage, Callahan targets him with his .44 Magnum and challenges him to, "Go ahead, make my day". The criminal surrenders. Callahan later causes powerful crime lord Threlkis to suffer a fatal heart attack at his granddaughter's wedding reception when Callahan threatens him with prosecution in a murder case.
Callahan's angry superiors call him in. While they cannot fire or suspend Callahan because his methods "get results", they instead order him to take a vacation. Callahan spends his time off target shooting with his .44 AutoMag and shotgun-armed partner Horace. However, his relaxation is short-lived when four of Threlkis's hitmen attack him. Callahan dispatches three, and the fourth escapes in an armored limousine. The suspect from the dismissed case and his friends also attack Callahan, throwing two Molotov cocktails into his car. He retrieves an unbroken firebomb and throws it at the attackers' car, causing them to crash into the bay, killing them. Callahan's supervisor, Lieutenant Donnelly, immediately sends him to San Paulo to investigate the Wilburn murder.
Upon arriving in San Paulo, Callahan chases down a would-be robber. The reckless but successful pursuit, during which Callahan commandeers a minibus carrying a group of senior citizens, draws the anger of the local police, although the seniors thoroughly approved and enjoyed the chase. While jogging with his bulldog Meathead, Callahan accidentally runs into Spencer. While she is less than thrilled, Spencer feels no extreme anger toward Callahan. Upon returning to his room at a motel, Callahan is targeted by the surviving Threlkis hitman, but the inspector kills him after being warned of his presence by Meathead. Meanwhile, Spencer kills a second rapist, Kruger, at the beach. Callahan recognizes the modus operandi, but local police chief Lester Jannings refuses to work with the famous "big city hotshot."
Callahan learns that the victims and Parkins are friends of Jannings' son, Alby. Parkins figures out that the rapists are being targeted and warns the remaining two, Tyrone and Mick. After fighting Kruger's uncooperative brothers-in-law, Eddie and Carl, Callahan meets Spencer again at an outdoor cafe. Over drinks, he learns that she shares his emphasis on results over methods when seeking justice. But, the inspector adds the caveat "'til it breaks the law." Callahan reveals that he is investigating Wilburn's murder, which rattles Spencer. Later, Callahan finds Tyrone dead. Mick stays at Parkins' home, where both await a probable attack. When Callahan visits them for questioning, Mick attacks him. After Callahan subdues Mick and takes him to the police station, Spencer arrives and guns down Parkins.
Having survived the assault, Callahan and Spencer meet again and sleep together. On his way out, Callahan notices Spencer's car, which he had seen earlier at Parkins' house, where he soon finds Parkins' body. Eddie and Carl bail Mick out of jail. Meanwhile, Horace arrives at Callahan's motel to celebrate the easing of tensions in San Francisco. He meets Mick and his henchmen instead, who have been waiting to spring an ambush. Horace is killed, Meathead is neutered by switchblade, and Mick and his henchmen brutally beat Callahan before throwing him into the ocean.
Spencer arrives at the Jannings home with the intention of killing Alby, who was one of the rapists. To her surprise, she finds Alby, like her sister, is also catatonic; a guilty conscience caused him to attempt suicide via a car crash that left him with permanent brain damage. Jannings admits that to protect his reputation and his only child, he "fixed" the crimes and failed to jail the guilty parties. He convinces Spencer to spare Alby's life and promises that Mick, whom he does not know is now free, will now be punished. Mick and the others, however, arrive and capture Spencer, killing Jannings with her .38.
Callahan retrieves his AutoMag from the motel, having lost his long-barreled Model 29 in the ocean. Enraged at what Mick's gang have done to Horace and Meathead, he sets out after them. Mick's gang brings Spencer to the boardwalk for another rape, but she escapes to the carousel. They recapture her, but are startled by Callahan's apparent return from the dead. After killing Eddie and Carl, Callahan chases Mick, who absconds with Spencer atop a rollercoaster. The inspector reiterates his challenge of "make my day"—this time to Mick. When Mick laughs maniacally at Callahan, Spencer uses the diversion to break free from Mick. Callahan shoots Mick, who then plunges through the carousel's glass roof and is impaled on a carousel unicorn.
The police arrive and find Spencer's .38 on Mick; ballistics, Callahan states, will prove that "his gun … was used in all the killings." A compassionate Callahan and a vindicated Spencer leave the crime scene together.
Sound Effects Used
- Sound Ideas, GUN, HAND GUN - .44 MAGNUM: SINGLE SHOT 01
- Sound Ideas, GUN, HANDGUN - PISTOL SHOTS WITH SILENCER, MORE WHIZZY
- Sound Ideas, GUN, RIFLE - SEVERAL SHOTS, WITH RICOCHET
- Sound Ideas, GUN, SHOTGUN - BEING FIRED, 4 SHOTS