Directed by Douglas Hickox
John Wayne is tough Chicago cop Lt. James Brannigan who goes to London to oversee the extradition of notorious American gangster Ben Larkin (John Vernon) but Larkin gets kidnapped and now Brannigan must track Larkin down so he can be brought back to the U.S. for justice.
Brannigan is a fish out of water story that works mostly based on the screen presence of John Wayne. The quip that opens this movie trailer (below) says it all. Wayne had a unique screen presence. His characters were unapologetically macho and here is no different.
The character of Brannigan comes from the rule breaking cop that gets the job done and somehow still manages to keep his badge mold. They were common at the dawn of the action film era and are so to a lesser extent today. With Wayne in this particular role you can see that such figures were essentially the Western lawman of older Hollywood films transported into a modern setting. Those cowboys did what they had to consequences be damned.
This rule breaking cop even had a “superior” while overseas in the form of British police Commander Swann (Richard Attenborough). Brannigan disregards him on, among other things, needing to turn in his gun but all he really does is get flustered and nothing more when Brannigan refuses the request.
Is it a unique and special entry into the action film library? Not really but what would otherwise be a so-so film benefits from the unequaled screen presence of the great John Wayne. The film itself is a good example of the type of material you could expect in action films of the time. Overly destructive chases with bad guys that are several steps ahead until the very end and side villains striking at the hero. How what happened on London Bridge did not get him locked in a room somewhere is a little confusing.
John Wayne flirts with his British liaison Jennifer (Judy Geeson) but never actually makes a move on her. And truthfully it would have been rather creepy if he had. It would have been as awkward as Roger Moore making a move on that one girl Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill. Knowing when your actor is too old to do what he once did is important, and Wayne was too old by this time.
Brannigan along with McQ came towards the end of Wayne’s career. Both felt a bit like attempts to reinvent his screen persona. For decades he was THE cowboy. For decades he was the personification of the mythology of the American West. This is definitely not set there nor does it place him as the moral and dedicated man fighting impossible odds against sweeping vistas as he once was even though some aspects of the genre have translated through as I said earlier.
Brannigan is a good action film with plenty of good lines and some better than usual acting from John Wayne. While nothing special, it is an enjoyable Wayne film from the later part of his career. Put it in and you will enjoy yourself.