Brannigan (1975) starring John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, John Vernon, Daniel Pilon directed by Douglas Hickox Movie Review

Brannigan (1975)   2/52/52/52/52/5

John Wayne as Lt. Brannigan in Brannigan (1975)

Dirty Brannigan

By the 1970s cinema was changing, westerns were for the most over and cop thrillers were the order of the day. Clint Eastwood had shown the way with "Dirty Harry" and so we got John Wayne following suit, first with "McQ" and then with "Brannigan". Now as a fan of John Wayne I hate to say this but "Brannigan" is not a good movie and very much an inferior "Dirty Harry" imitation with Wayne trying to play the tough cop sent to London to bring back an American criminal. Maybe when it was released back in the 70s it was more entertaining but watching "Brannigan" now it feels cliche, cumbersome and frankly very misguided.

Having been on the trail of American gangster Ben Larkin (John Vernon - Point Blank) for some time Lt. Jim Brannigan (John Wayne - Cahill) is sent to London where he learns that Scotland Yard are monitoring Larkin's activities. But having headed to London he receives bad news from Cmdr. Swann (Richard Attenborough - Doctor Dolittle) that Larkin has been kidnapped and they are going to have to deal with his kidnappers. Having tried things the British way, Brannigan looses patience and brings a touch of American law enforcement to the London streets in order to capture Larkin whilst also dealing with a hitman who has been sent over to make sure he doesn't leave London alive.

Richard Attenborough as Cmdr. Swann in Brannigan (1975)

Now where do you start when it comes to the storyline well it starts very simply as we meet Lt. Brannigan trying to get his hands on Larkin and finds himself being sent to London where he is under observation by Scotland Yard. All very straight forwards and frankly routine as is the way we learn than not only is Brannigan a cop whose not afraid to bend the rules and beat up people but he is also a bit of a charmer with the women, is this all feeling familiar.

Now here is the thing with Brannigan in London things start to get not so much more complex but seriously twisted as Larkin is kidnapped, an assassin goes after Brannigan and there are double crosses, triple crosses, red herrings and various other mechanisms to make following things a real hassle. And ironically you know that following what happens isn't essential because everything really comes down to Brannigan bringing a bit of American justice to the British streets with some violence, a car chase and some flirting. It has some clever moments and a scene where Brannigan returns to his rented apartment to realise someone has been snooping around is one of the movies highlights even if it is outrageous.

But here is the thing, not only does it just feel like a "Dirty Harry" clone but it doesn't really work either. The car chase scene through the London streets just lacks any glamour as do the various moments of action and a scene which sees John Wayne and Richard Attenborough start a bar room brawl in a London pub is simply cheesy. It goes on because Brannigan is not nearly nasty enough to be taken seriously as someone who will dish out a beating on someone and the occasional moments of charm as he flirts with a woman is just as bad. Basically if you want a "Dirty Harry" style cop thriller watch "Dirty Harry" not "Brannigan".

Now in a way you can understand John Wayne wanting to do the tough cop thing, Eastwood had done it and so it seemed obvious that he should give it a shot as well but it just doesn't suit him. Now I am a huge fan of John Wayne but he seems so ill at ease trying to bring his charisma to the role and at times looks very awkward especially in the various action scenes. Wayne is not the only one who doesn't come out of "Brannigan" well because whilst on one hand Richard Attenborough is well cast as Cmdr. Swann of Scotland Yard he then looks very wrong in both the jokey and action scenes and yes I am on about the pub brawl where watching Attenborough swinging left right and centre is very cheesy. And to be honest Wayne and Attenborough are really the central characters, dominating every scene and so whilst in their supporting roles Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer and John Vernon do well they don't get anywhere near enough screen time.

What this all boils down to is that "Brannigan" is simply wrong and this is from someone who is a fan of John Wayne. It looks and comes across as a "Dirty Harry" imitation and not a good one at that. Maybe back in the 70s it was more exciting but watching it now it just feels incredibly cheesy and even cumbersome.