Directed by John Sturges
A string of police killings set cop Det. Lt. Lon “McQ” McHugh (John Wayne) on the trail of a drug dealer and corrupt officers.
John Wayne stars in this outing as tougher than tough cop McQ. The death of his friend Detective Stan Boyle (William Bryant) in the opening moments of the movie is what makes McQ doggedly pursue this case. It is a prime example of what you would find in a 70s action film. McQ is caught up in police corruption that he is trying to make right all the while zipping around in a car a person on a cop’s salary probably should not be able to afford. Between his fists and guns, he solves the problem while dodging dangerous women and seducing each one along the way because they cannot resist his manly charms.
Lois (Diana Muldaur) is one of two girls that McQ is romancing. She is also the wife of his deceased friend and expresses an attraction for McQ to the point she is practically throwing herself at him. In a movie like this that is a huge red flag. Massive.
Myra (Colleen Dewhurst) is a cocaine addict and informant who makes good enough money to be able to afford her house while working as a waitress. Dewhurst was a fine actress and imbues the rather disposable character of Myra with more than the material should allow for.
We have Clu Gulager as Detective Frank Toms and Eddie Albert as Capt. Edward Kosterman to boot in this movie. This is something I could only see come along in the 70s. I am not sure if this type of a cast that for me is rather eclectic could come together in any other era.
The movie is called McQ. The character is called McQ in the credits and the trailer, but I cannot recall that name being used in the film. They always called him “Lon.” I could be mistaken but I do not remember hearing it at all.
I enjoyed this movie, but it was pretty standard fare. The action genre was still a little unsure of what to do with itself at the time in my view. Look at any from back then in comparison to the slicker action productions of the 80s. The story ideas might be solid, but the execution could be clunky or a bit uneven. For example, the death of Myra does not seem logical given the world placed on screen. It felt more like an added reason to pursue justice as the writers felt the original reason was no longer sufficient. That is what I mean by clunky. An example of uneven is that McQ is shown to be divorced and a dedicated dad for about five minutes and then those characteristics disappear from the story.
The loose cannon cop was well trodden territory even then and this movie does nothing to make it special for this film. McQ’s superiors seeming comfortably annoyed with him and his actions. The character’s resignation in the context of the film felt unnecessary.
Which brings me to local private eye “Pinky” Farrell (David Huddleston). How did those two connect? He is more plot device than character since McQ quickly connecting to him allows our hero to continue legally investigating the mystery. The character came and went pretty easily and mysteriously.
The story is a bit of a mystery on how all the pieces of evidence connect together. It is not the most well-crafted mystery, but it is still a mystery. They throw out a bit of a red herring in the form of Kosterman. I would have bet dollars to donuts that his character was behind the conspiracy of replacing the drugs with sugar. Not so. Once the pieces are all laid out at the end by McQ you realize it was all kind of obvious.
The shootout at the end of the film with Santiago (Al Lettieri) trying to steal the actual drugs was a bit gratuitous. Even by the standards of the day. I think the movie would have been just as satisfying without it.
McQ is not a bad movie. It is nothing too special of the action genre from the day, but it is worth watching to see John Wayne in something other than a cowboy film. It is a good enough crime film that while nothing special is still entertaining. Put it in and do not think too hard and you will enjoy yourself.