Before “Ricochet” became a Denzel Washington thriller, he began his life as a sequel to “Dirty Harry”, which was personally transmitted by Clint Eastwood. Eastwood was best known for his work in westerns in the 60s, and the Dollars trilogy marked his breakthrough in cinema. His next major success was the 1971 dark thriller Dirty Harry, in which his award-winning detective breaks all the rules to catch a serial killer stalking San Francisco. “Dirty Harry” was a great success and contained several iconic scenes and dialogues, but also caused controversy due to the seeming approval of police brutality.
The film was such a success that the sequel to Dirty Harry was quickly put into development, and in 1973, Magnum Force appeared. The franchise continued for three more parts, culminating in the stunning “Dead Pool” of 1988. However, Eastwood was considering concepts for the sixth part, and one project later turned into an original film.
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Screenwriter and director Fred Dekker is best known for the cult horror films “Night of the Scoundrels” and “Monster Squad” and was a fan of “Dirty” Harry. He felt that the films after “Magnum Force” didn’t work, so he wrote “Ricochet” on a special order with the intention of making a film “Dirty Harry”, where John Wayne handed over the original, which corresponded to the series. The story is connected with a criminal whom Harry arrested a few years before he devoted his life to destroying the detective after his release. Unfortunately, Dekker’s hopes that the script would be a sequel to Dirty Harry quickly collapsed.
Clint Eastwood thinks Richochet was “too dark” for “Dirty Harry”
According to Dekker’s interview in The Flashback Files, his producer Joel Silver sent the specification to Eastwood. The star apparently rejected the idea as “too dark,” so “Ricochet” was reworked as an original film instead. Decker was hoping to direct it himself, and Kurt Russell could potentially play the lead role, but in the end Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) signed a contract, and Denzel Washington got the lead role. “Ricochet” wasn’t a huge success and seems to have been largely forgotten, but the film is notable for being relentlessly dark and uncomfortable, with John Lithgow (aka Dexter’s “Trinity Killer”) in one of his most chilling roles as a psychopath who systematically destroys the life and career of Nick Stiles from Washington.
This includes an extended episode in which Stiles is abducted, tortured, systematically drugged and sexually assaulted. While Stiles eventually defeats and kills Lithgow’s character, Ricochet has a sneaky streak rarely seen in mainstream thrillers. Given the bleakness of the final product, it is not surprising that Eastwood passed by, although Dekker later stated that the aforementioned torture and mistreatment of the main character did not figure in the Dirty Harry version of the script.