Clint's Man With One Name
In many ways "Coogan's Bluff" was a transitional movie for Clint Eastwood as it took him from Clint the Cowboy to Clint the Cop. And the movie itself was transitional because at the start Clint plays an Arizona Deputy Sheriff like he is a lone cowboy tackling bad guys in his own way but by the end he is a mean cop who whilst still holding elements of being a cowboy isn't afraid to turn nasty to get what he wants. Basically it works and watching "Coogan's Bluff" now you can't but help notice how Clint's character evolve into something similar to Dirty Harry. And it's a good job that the transitional aspect of "Coogan's Bluff" works because beyond the focus on Clint's character it has rather a mundane story with very few thrills.
Having got on the wrong side of his superior, Arizona deputy sheriff Coogan (Clint Eastwood - Hang 'Em High) is sent to New York to escort a prisoner back to face charges and much to his annoyance the prisoner is not going to be ready for him for a few days. That's not the only things which annoys Coogan as everyone thinks he's from Texas due to his cowboy hat. Tired of waiting Coogan takes matters into his own hands and tells a few lies to get the prisoner released into his custody only to lose him when he is attacked at the airport. Despite being ordered to return home Coogan refuses to go and goes after the criminal doing whatever he needs to to get his man.
So as already mentioned the storyline to "Coogan's Bluff" didn't really do much for me, it felt routine with a storyline about a criminal giving Coogan the slip and so Coogan does what ever he needs to track him down and bring him in. Even the opening which does a very good job of establishing Coogan's character as he tracks down a criminal in the Arizona desert is not that spectacular, although amusing in that it establishes Coogan as a man who is both anti-establishment and a ladies man, stopping off to visit a young woman rather than returning with his prisoner immediately. But to be honest it feels like "Coogan's Bluff" was never made with the intent of being a movie about a clever story rather than as a vehicle to help Clint move from being seen as only a western star and into something different.
As such "Coogan's Bluff" works because of Clint Eastwood and his already established persona which he brings with him. In those opening scenes it sets about establishing Coogan as this lone cowboy, this clever law man who does things his way and often not to the letter of the law. And then when Coogan heads to the big city to escort a criminal back it is the transition of his character from being a tough cowboy to a tough cop who will turn nasty on whoever gets in his way be it man or woman. It may all seem rather cliche because along with the transition from cowboy to cop director Don Siegel also plays to Clint's Eastwood's sex appeal as he is willing to sleep with any woman he finds desirable, yes we get a typical Clint love scene. In many ways "Coogan's Bluff" like other earlier Eastwood movies now appear incredibly sexist as he almost treats women like dirt but it strangely aids in establishing his character.
And to be honest the cliche goes on as we watch Coogan becoming bemused by what he sees in a hippy night club he enters from free love to nudity. It's this sort of thing which provides the expected moments of lightness as we imagine the thoughts which Coogan is having when he firsts sees two women kissing and smiles and then sees two men about to kiss. And of course the outcome of the movie itself is basically a cliche, delivering nothing less than you expect with a big action chase scene followed by one which gives the movie closure. Basically "Coogan's Bluff" works but it is not the most original movie you will ever watch.
But of course the reason it works is because of Clint Eastwood and the fact that it feels like a vehicle to help establish Clint as someone other than a cowboy. So basically we go from the man with no name to the man with one name and Clint handles it all well making the slight changes in character work. And to be honest with "Coogan's Bluff" really being all about Clint the rest of the cast which includes Lee J. Cobb, Susan Clark and Tisha Sterling do a good job but are there just to support Clint.
What this all boils down to is that "Coogan's Bluff" is a reasonable movie, neither brilliant nor terrible. But the most interesting aspect of it is the transitional element as it turns Clint the Cowboy to Clint the Cop and does a good job of establishing him as a no messing, nasty lawman, the sort which Eastwood went on to deliver better than anyone with the "Dirty Harry" movies.