John Wayne Tears up London in Late-Career Cop Movie Amusement



Old Man John Wayne is gruff, entitled, and fed up with all the crap. But this is no Thursday afternoon at Costco. This is London, 1975. And John Wayne is tough guy Chicago cop Big Jim Brannigan. Being the biggest, baddest man with a badge around, he’s not going to let a little thing like, say, mandatory retirement age get in his way.

Truth be told, the Duke isn’t looking half bad in this nonsensical bit of macho fluff. One might even say, at the peril of separating the star and all the baggage he brings from the movie itself, that it’s Brannigan the movie, not Brannigan/Wayne, that’s really showing its age.

A not half bad bit of action movie directing by Douglas Hickox, from a screenplay and story co-written by son of formerly blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, Christopher Trumbo (though, this being a late John Wayne vehicle, don’t look for any leftist messaging, no siree), Brannigan is a post-Dirty Harry knuckle-cracker with very few surprises. Although the continuous stunt work (a bar brawl, a city-wide car chase, etc.) is a true highlight, the accompanying faux Lalo Schifrin score by Dominic Frontiere is a distracting work of Mickey Mouse-ery. And, nothing screams “1970s TV aesthetic!!” like tracking it all with relentless zoom lenses.

That said, this energized warhorse of a movie does go for the occasional surprise twist now and then. To say I was engaged with the plot itself, however, is (to, by chance, site a famed film by Wayne’s costar Richard Attenborough) a bridge too far. With a wholly game and noteworthy supporting cast, it’s a shame that Brannigan, one of only two cop movies Wayne ever made, so we’re told, isn’t that much better.

This is, above all, about showcasing how John Wayne – that pockmarked n’ proud pillar of all-American Americanism – will show those stodgy Brits how things get done in the states!

Attenborough plays the British police chief who must abide Brannigan’s gun-toting bluster. One of several such exchanges is entirely this paraphrase: “Brannigan, this is London. We police officers do not carry firearms.” “Well I’m sent here as a Chicago cop. And in Chicago, we pack all the heat we need!” Inexplicably, that argument lands in favor of Brannigan. The reply could have been, but wasn’t, “Oh, all right. But only because you’re The Duke!”

Judy Geeson, indeed as cute as a button, is the local officer assigned to driving Brannigan all over town. The jury remains out, somewhat, as to whether their cutie-patootie relationship is of the father/daughter variety, or… other. Let’s just go with the former, shall we then? Anyhow… These fine officers of the law are looking to bring back a caught American crime lord played by a sweaty and disheveled John Vernon. But before they can do that, the crime lord gets captured by other criminals. Everyone’s got a beef with someone, not the least of which is Vernon’s character’s beef with Wayne’s. Hmmm.

Judy Geeson and John Wayne in BRANNIGAN.

But, I do most voluntarily digress. This is, above all, about showcasing how John Wayne – that pockmarked n’ proud pillar of all-American Americanism – will show those stodgy Brits how things get done in the states!  And with a bit of heavy-stepping gunplay, aged-to-perfection (apparently) reflexes, and no shortage of doors kicked in, Brannigan does just that. The movie does nothing to reinforce the legacy of its lead actor. Arguably, quite the opposite, really. But for fans and the curious alike, Brannigan is not the poor extradition it’s sometimes made out to be.

The new Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber boasts a noticeable high definition up-step from their DVD release of the film several months prior (and reviewed for ZekeFilm by Robert Hornak). It does not, however, appear to different tremendously from the Blu-Ray edition previously made available by Twilight Time. Included is an optional audio commentary track by Kino commentary regulars Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. While the pair lacks no humor about this suspect film in the Duke’s filmography, they also greatly enjoy the movie, detailing a surprising amount of information about it all along the way.


The images in this review are not representative of the actual Blu-ray’s quality, and are included only to represent the film itself.