21 August 2002 | jimu63
A smart career move for Clint
Clint Eastwood has always been one of the most career-savvy superstars of all time. Looking over his filmography, since his career breakthrough it is obvious he has never done a film strictly for the money and has solid reasons behind every film he has made. Even his worst films have a purpose: "The Rookie," for instance, which most people would agree is a career low, was obviously made to satisfy the brass at Warner Bros. by delivering a modern-day Dirty Harry clone so he would be left alone to work on his Academy Award-winning classic "Unforgiven," which came out two years later. So it is with "Coogan's Bluff," which most viewers would probably dismiss as second-rate Eastwood, but in reality served as a savvy bridge from Westerns (the type of genre he was primarily known for at the time) into more modern day roles.
As directed by his mentor Don Siegel, "Coogan's Bluff" actually opens in the Arizona desert, which strongly resembles the background of his spaghetti westerns. Indeed, the first character we see is a loincloth-attired man, who appears to be Indian, so the audience is tricked into thinking they're watching a western. Then, we see a jeep driving down a dirt road, with a stetson-wearing Clint at the wheel. He is Dept. Sheriff Coogan, and there we see our first view of Clint as a modern lawman. It isn't long before he's in New York City, chasing down an escaped extradited criminal (Don Stroud), romancing a beautiful parole officer (Susan Clark) and butting heads with a strong-willed police captain (Lee J.Cobb, a terrific, yet sadly forgotten character actor of the day). Therefore, in a matter of fifteen minutes, Siegel cleverly introduces Eastwood as a contemporary figure, a transition that will be complete when he returns to modern times three years later in his most famous role, "Dirty Harry" Callahan.
But "Coogan's Bluff" is an enjoyable film on its own terms. Eastwood at times is very funny here--his retort to an unethical cab driver is priceless--and the film moves along at a brisk pace. Just don't expect action galore or a high body count. Clint doesn't kill anybody here; there's no broad conspiracy or mystery to solve; his job is simply to find the prisoner and take him home. In fact, the film is at its best when its dealing with Coogan as a fish-out-of-water, dealing with various New York thieves, crooks, drug dealers, hippies, and the aforementioned cab driver. There is, however, a well-choreographed fight scene in a bar and an exciting motorcycle chase for a climax, but that's as much action as there is. It's also pretty short for an Eastwood film: where most of his films run over two hours, this one clocks in at a brisk 94 minutes, next to "Joe Kidd" and "The Dead Pool," one of his shortest adventures.
So there you have it, a "minor" effort that served a "major" purpose in what has become an important Hollywood career. *** (out of *****)