Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.Brannigan then. A film so seventies from the trumpety style in it’s beginning as well as the one word title immediately denoting tough guy. I’m not going to lie that there were parts in this film that I must admit I viewed with a nostalgic smile.
John Wayne is a tough Chicago cop. Despite being of an age where he should be carrying a pension and not a gun and wearing something on his head that only an animal lover could identify he still can kick a Chicago door down (must have made them weak in the seventies) and threaten a man old enough to be his grandson.
He has to go to London to pick up a criminal for extradition who’s currently out on bail in a plush hotel. Rather like the Robert De Niro movie with the old lag wishing to retire but persuaded to do one last job it’s not a spoiler to say the extradition does not go as planned or else there would be no film.
The London mentioned is that of the Dorchester hotel and the (then no idea about now) Male only Garrick club and Piccadilly Circus. The main British character. The “Commander” happy to deal with a lowly Chicago detective is played by Richard Attenborough. The commander’s name is Sir Charles Swann. Cliché Britain for Americans. They argue in the beginning over Wayne’s carrying of a gun. Respect for the rule of British law being difficult for Brannigan to accept.
Let’s for a moment stop at Piccadilly circus. It brought nostalgic memories to see ads for Cinzano “the bianco” and Skol “International Lager”. Whatever happened to Skol?
Incidentally perhaps Richard Attenborough should have brought brother David along to identify what is on John Wayne’s head.
The one interesting exception to the Cliché London tour was that of the Docklands, which was then a run down piece of real estate before it became the skyscrapery land it is today. One wonders whether if there’s a long dark hard Brexit of the soul Docklands will revert to it’s seventies status.
There are few female characters in this film. The main one is Judy Geeson who plays a female police officer, or, as Brian Glover describes her later on a “bird cop” (another sixties/seventies cliché there). Mainly she seemed to be there to provide a decorative schoolgirl crush on Wayne. There are no actors of colour there either. London was a multi-cultural city even then.
So there are seventies cliché characters with a seventies cliché plot in a seventies cliché London. There is one particular scene where there was the high class call girl (played incidentally by Lesley Anne-Down) her mincing gay pimp and the assassin paid to kill Wayne. You know he’s the seventies assassin by the music that introduces him and the fact that for most of the movie he wears dark glasses. This is London. trust me there are few days when you would have needed dark glasses.
And talking of clichés there is a fight scene in a London pub that could have been taken with a change of accent from one of Wayne’s Westerns (piano included).
So with a movie overflowing with clichés (including the car chase which ends memorably though impossibly) this is a movie to be avoided? Well no.
Two things save this film. Firstly John Wayne might have an unidentified furry object on his head and a face looking like the side of a mountain but he still has screen presence. I’m not going to say I’ve liked every John Wayne movie I’ve ever seen but I’ve never been bored by one. He has the power to carry a movie over the line through his personality alone. Something which as we’ve chatted about previously James Stewart could not do.
The other reason is that led by Wayne we have a cast that knows full well they’re not doing Shakespeare. They are not taking this seriously. They are having fun. And if approached in the same spirit so I’d argue will the audience.
Until the next time.