Wednesday, May 11, 2022

#2,752. Brannigan (1975) - John Wayne in the 1970s


Both McQ and Brannigan were John Wayne’s take on the Dirty Harry persona; a no-nonsense cop who isn’t above exacting a little vigilante justice to bring the bad guys to their knees (Wayne reportedly turned down the lead role in Dirty Harry, a decision he came to regret). And don’t let the fact that he was in his mid-to-late 60s at the time throw you: these are two solid crime movies, both featuring gritty performances by their iconic leading man.

Chicago policeman Jim Brannigan (Wayne) is sent to London to fetch notorious American gangster Ben Larkin (John Vernon), who, with the help of his lawyer Mel Fields (Mel Ferrer), has been hiding out there. Shortly after Brannigan arrives in London, however, Larkin is kidnapped by a pair of goons, who demand a huge ransom for his return.

Teaming up with Commander Sir Charles Swann (Richard Attenborough) of Scotland Yard, Brannigan does what he can to track down the kidnappers and retrieve the missing gangster, all the while dodging a killer (Daniel Pilon) hired by Larkin, who is bound and determined to ensure that Brannigan never gets out of London alive.

As it was with McQ a year earlier, Wayne is a force to be reckoned with in Brannigan. In the opening scene, he confronts a Chicago-based counterfeiter, relying on less-than-legal tactics to coerce information out of him, and when in London Brannigan consistently butts heads with Commander Swann, who objects to the fact that his American counterpart is always packing a gun.

The London setting is also used to great effect, and added an intriguing “fish out of water” element to the story (how ironic that one of the last movies John Wayne, the most American of actors, appeared in was set almost entirely in Jolly Old England). There’s also a great car chase scene that concludes on a partially raised London Bridge (it’s my favorite sequence in the movie).

Along with Wayne’s tough-as-nails title character, Vernon delivers a strong performance as the gangster on the run, while Judy Geeson also shines as Detective Sergeant Jennifer Thatcher, who acts as Brannigan’s partner while he’s in the UK.

Throughout his long and storied career, John Wayne made only two significant cop films, both of in the waning years of his life. And while McQ is undoubtedly the better action film, Brannigan, which also boasts a handful of genuinely funny moments (the best being a barroom fight sequence in which both Brannigan and Swann duke it out with the drunken patrons), is the more entertaining of the two.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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