Saturday, January 2, 2010

Big city meets big cowboy hat

Coogan's Bluff (1968)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Susan Clark, Lee J. Cobb, Tisha Sterling and Don Stroud
Director: Donald Siegel
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When an impatient sheriff's deputy from Arizona, Coogan (Eastwood), loses a dangerous prisoner in New York City, he receives a crash course in how things are done Back East.

"Coogan's Bluff" is an amusing detective film crossed with a fish-out-of-water story about a cowboy cop applying tough-guy tactics to a manhunt in ultra-liberal New York. Running gags surrounding stereotypes held by New Yorkers about Westerners (such as everyone in a cowboy hat and boots is from Texas) and Coogan's amazement about how law is enforced in the Big City are all well-deployed and delivered with perfect straight faces and comedic timing by the cast.

The only sour note in this excellent film surrounds Coogan's pseudo love interest. Coogan's a womanizer, so he spends the film trying to bed a bleeding-heart parole officer (who is such a bleeding heart that she lets her clients fondle her breasts during meetings). He eventually gets somewhere with her but instead of "closing the deal", he sneaks a look at her files to get a lead on his escaped prisoner. She is naturally angered by this betrayal, yet at the end of the movie she gives him a loving send-off as he heads back to Arizona. I love macho-fantasies as much as the next guy--if only women would fall into our beds over nothing but our tough ways and country charm!--but in the context of the way these two characters interact throughout the movie, it's an eye-rollingly stupid development that leaves the viewer with a final bad impression of what has otherwise been a pretty decent film.

Fans for the laconic Eastwood from films like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" will love him in "Coogan's Bluff". They're also likely to love the entire movie... so long as the DVD player is stopped after Cobb meets Eastwood in the park and repeats his explanation to Coogan about how things are done in NYC.

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