Monday, March 1, 2010

John Wayne fails to impress in 'Brannigan'

Brannigan (aka "Joe Battle") (1975)
Starring: John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, John Vernon, and Daniel Pilon
Director: Douglas Hickox
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Lone-wolf Chicago police detective Jim Brannigan (Wayne) is sent to England to retrieve his bail-jumping arch-nemesis, mob boss Ben Larkin (Vernon) under an extradition agreement. However, on the very day Brannigan arrives in London, Larkin is kidnapped and held for ransom by a team of highly skilled professional criminals. Brannigan finds himself forced to not only work with detectives from Scotland Yard (Attenborough and Geeson), but also Larkin's slimy attorney (Ferrer) in order to secure the safe return of the criminal-turned-victim. Unfortunately, Brannigan is being stalked by a determined hitman (Pilon) that Larkin hired before being kidnapped, and someone within the ranks of either Scotland Yard or Larkin's gang is playing both sides.

"Brannigan" is a movie with a fabulous cast, witty dialogue, and a fairly decent concept at its heart. It's even a very somewhat clever caper story with the kidnapping and the plot and counter plots surrounding the ransom drops. All of these good traits are squandered on a script that's predictable at every turn (even by 1975 standards, I venture, as some of the "twists" were old for crime dramas by 1940 and others are telegraphed too far in advance) and a film that's overlong and padded with establishing shots that go on for ever and ever (in some cases with bewilderingly dramatic music playing).

It's really a shame, because there was a lot that could have been done with with the very interesting cast of characters here, all being portrayed by top-notch actors. In fact, the British police detectives (Attenborough's Sir Charles and Geeson's Det. Sgt. Jennifer Thatcher) are more interesting than Wayne's Brannigan character. If a little more had been done with Tatcher, Sir Charles--or even with Brannigan's WW2 history in London--this film would have been so much stronger.

In the final analysis, "Brannigan" emerges as a slightly below average police drama that even John Wayne's biggest fans can probably put off seeing.

(Trivia: John Wayne was offered the part of Dirty Harry before it went to Clint Eastwood.)

1 comment:

  1. I remember watching this and was not impressed. I thought he was a little too old for the part.