7 August 2004 | barnabyrudge
John Wayne swaps the open plains for downtown London - fairly routine but quite good fun.
After a spate of tired westerns, and unmemorable cop programmers like McQ, John Wayne was in need of something a little fresh. Brannigan doesn't have much in its plot that we haven't seen before, but it is freshened up by its unusual London setting. Nicely directed by Douglas Hickox, and complemented by lots of good supporting performances, it is also entertaining in patches.
Chicago cop, and all-round hard man Jim Brannigan (John Wayne) is ordered to fly out to London, England, to bring back bail-skipping gangster Ben Larkin (John Vernon). But just as Brannigan arrives, Larkin is abducted by a bunch of British crooks who plan to hold him for a hefty ransom. Aided by stiff-lipped Scotland Yard detective Charles Swann (Richard Attenborough), Brannigan attempts to track down the kidnappers so that he can get hold of his man.
Wayne looks pretty old for this kind of energetic action stuff, but he has a certain rugged charisma that allows him to more-or-less get away with it. The supporting cast is generally very good - Attenborough registers well as the Scotland Yard detective; Judy Geeson looks lovely and has a good role as the lady assigned to look after Brannigan during his stay; Vernon adds another unpleasant bad guy to his villains' gallery; and little-known Daniel Pilon has the best scenes in the film as a genuinely evil hit-man assigned to erase Brannigan. The music, scored by Dominic Frontiere, is hilariously '70s and is poured over the action with little consideration. There are also some unnecessary comic moments, such as the needlessly farcical bar-room brawl sequence which is out of tune with the rest of the film (Maltin, preposterously, called the bar-room brawl the high spot of the film but if anything it's the low point). At its worst, Brannigan stoops pretty low, but these low moments are gladly quite sporadic. For most of the way, it's an entertaining - if never truly excellent - star vehicle, and a genuinely "different" role for The Duke.